Overnighter by Phil Huffy

Overnighter

In sleep she opens up her battered case
and finds within that rugged portmanteau
dark recollections years cannot efface,
although the waking mind has let them go.

Behind those dormant eyes her thoughts compete
to artfully assort and so define
conundrums with most answers incomplete
to which she does not consciously incline.

And when she stirs, resurgent as the day
and life resumes with rest obliquely got,
in truth, some things she thinks are packed away
are carried in the heart as much as not.

And so to dream can grant benign surcease,
permitting her to rise and go in peace.

by Phil Huffy, first published in Pangolin

Editor’s Note: The stellar iambic pentameter and rhymes of this sonnet perfectly support the extended metaphor introduced in the first stanza.

Scandal by Barbara Lydecker Crane

Scandal
Madame X, by John Singer Sargent, Paris, 1843-4

At last, when she allowed me to depict her,
this married beauty linked to love affairs,
the critics brayed I’d broken every stricture–
her brazen stance, décolleté, her air
aloof–as if with scorn, her head is turned
aside. She flaunts herself and yet withdraws,
a self-preservation I have learned.
Beyond this daring portrait, did I cause
reproof for what in me I must conceal?
Despite the furor, I did not take this out
of public view. The work is vital, real–
and over time, its scandal gave me clout:
what once made Paris critics blanch and fret
now flaunts its beauty at the New York Met.

by Barbara Lydecker Crane, first published in Think

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic sonnet gives voice to the artist and art history simultaneously, with impressively rhymed lines. Also, if you’ve never seen this painting at the Met, I highly recommend it. It’s luminous in person.

Thé Dansant, 1895 by Mitchell Geller

Thé Dansant, 1895

The crisp eroticism of the waltz
is infinitely sexier to me,
(although admittedly inclined to schmaltz)
than tangos from the Argentine could be.
The strong 3/4 of Lehár and of Strauss—
libido under bombazine and lace:
tumescent tunes—unlikely that they’d dowse
the flames that flush décolleté and face.
A final sweep around the ballroom floor—
the swelling horns, the throbbing of the strings.
A dance-card filled: no room for any more,
and febrile words that make a heart grow wings.
Her breathlessness required smelling salts—
I blame the man, the music and the waltz.

2004

by Mitchell Geller

Editor’s Note: As a lifelong reader and writer of romance novels, an amateur ballroom dancer, and a lover of classical music, this sonnet is an absolute delight to read.

Weather Experts: An acrostic sonnet by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Weather Experts: An acrostic sonnet

What makes our weather experts on TV
Express such joy the moment that they learn
A monster storm is forming out at sea?
The damage it might do evades concern!
How many times I’ve watched a coming storm
Extolled for having reached an awesome size!
Rotations are impressive if they form
Enormous whirls of peril in my skies!
X marks the spot of trouble they admire:
Perfection in the sharpness of an eye
Encircled by a vast expanding gyre …
Reporting danger makes them rapt——but why?
The experts who’ve let poets lie unread
See poetry in hurricanes instead!

by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Editor’s Note: It seems I’m alternating grim poems with light verse this week, but how can I resist when a gem like this lands in my inbox? I’ve always loved weather and poetry.

Led Zeppelin, LA Forum, 1977 by Ed Granger

Led Zeppelin, LA Forum, 1977
(Van Halen Prelude)

The whole place coruscates with snuck-in
rum, sweat-soaked patchouli, pent-up
veneration for the air-brushed-on
bellbottoms and thousand-watt coifs tipping
last swigs of Moet backstage.
Then a spot Excaliburs the pot smoke,
finds an elvish figure for its nimbus—Page,
right hand raised as left wrings an arpeggio
from his Les Paul’s neck. Two brothers, specks
in a sellout crowd, take every gesture
in, then back to Pasadena. No money for effects
or Marshall stacks, but when Eddie adds one finger
of his right hand to the frets: a stairway sound.
“Alex, come here, man—check this out!”

by Ed Granger

Editor’s Note: Slant-rhyme sonnets feel deceptively free, while beneath the surface a great deal of discipline keeps the music steady, not unlike the riffs of great guitarists. RIP Eddie Van Halen.

Preparing to See the Shaman by Diane Elayne Dees

Preparing to See the Shaman

Should I fast and pray and drink a lot of water,
or ask for dreams? By nature, I’m a planner,
though I’ve never sought assistance in this manner.
Yet, late in life, I’m still the wounded daughter
who’s missing parts that others take for granted;
specifically, the parts that make me feel
alive and whole, a woman who is real,
and not a she-ghost, fragmented and haunted.
I wonder if the lost parts can be found,
or if they have an interest in returning.
I pray that they rejoice upon learning
I plan to keep them healthy, safe and sound.
A shaman travels light, yet fully guided—
I hope she finds the path more smooth than I did.

by Diane Elayne Dees

Twitter: @WomenWhoServe

Editor’s Note: This Australian sonnet opens with a question, and by the end, the answer isn’t at all obvious (though what dreams are?), which suits the subject of the narrative.

Émigré Summer by Rebekah Curry

Émigré Summer
(Poem Beginning with a Line from Adam Zagajewski)

The city’s towers rise like words of love.
A liquid sun drops honey. On the air,
something like lilac, blooming in a grove
that memory imagined. You were there
when maps had other colors. Here, the light
falls on you strangely; this is not the sky
you had a language for. Above, the flight
of birds you cannot name. The noble lie
of summer still surrounds you, but you keep
the knowledge of what follows: twilit snow,
the clouds where the forgotten gather sleep.
You travel in that quiet world below,
its constellations offering no chart,
with no companion but the secret heart.

by Rebekah Curry

Twitter: @rebekah_curry

Editor’s Note: This sonnet captures images as if they were treasures. The close is soft, but no less emphatic emotionally.

A calm, fixed mind by Peg Duthie

A calm, fixed mind

I know the friends and cousins cannot stand my ways—
my cleaning gears and baseboards no one will inspect.
They call my love of order a crimp upon my days,
seeing my routines as relics of a sect,
of Christian tyranny—cannot fathom how
anyone of passion could willingly submit
to reins and regulations. “There is no time but now”
the motto of new rebels. No Top 40 hit
will celebrate my kind—our plodding path
does not contain the arcs that make hearts beat faster
but martyrs don’t live past The Ends. I’d rather do the math
and live on in the flesh than immortalized in plaster.
My tending of minutiae leads to what I crave—
my saved-up shekels equal license to be brave.

by Peg Duthie

Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delight for those of us addicted to order.

The Buoy by Siham Karami

The Buoy

Lost, fluorescing with the ferry’s glow
across the pleasure sea from San Francisco,
tripping lightly into Sausalito,
I found myself inside a stranger’s yacht
and joined him waxing floorboards. Then his smile
burst like sun through dangling seaweed—our eyes,
deep underwater lips, entangling, blurred.

The gravity of ties now in my hold,
I think of consequence, the darkening wake
where love has sunk—how to care so deep
and yet retain what hums, what radiates
a raw blue edge on every passing thing
as neon burns above the ocean freight,
to buzz the midnight air like wasps in heat.

by Siham Karami

Twitter: @SihamKarami

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s imagery is almost surreal, leading one to believe that the story told is a dream, but the final lines are all too real.

For the Death of My Ex-Husband by Elise Hempel

For the Death of My Ex-Husband

The first four stages of grief
have been accomplished, in random order,
a few repeated, with no clear border,
denial more like disbelief,

but the fifth – acceptance – almost
there on a sunny day, and then
refusing its place on the list again,
elusive as the five-word ghost

of your voice our daughter now
plays on her cell-phone over and over,
her finger in its endless hover,
passing the stop-square, pressing the arrow.

by Elise Hempel

Editor’s Note: This poem uses enjambment to great effect, highlighting the narrator’s sorrow (over her loss—so complicated, and her daughter’s—so easy to understand).