A Painful Parting
Why do you say that you have lost her
having driven her away?
Why do you think this has not cost her
more in pain than she would say?
Are you surprised she is not eager
for your game of Share the Pain
or for the guilt from gifts called meager
and the threat of Paul self-slain?
You called and asked if she was willing
to resume your hurtful game
but she refused to share such killing
though she kindly shared the blame.
"I'm sorry" was her final sending
then she sadly left the phone.
"I too am sorry" was the ending,
leaving you yet more alone.
So you have lost her by your malice;
you have driven her away.
Your life has transformed from a palace
to a prison in a day.
[completed 8 April 1991]
This was based on a telephone call made 6 March 1991 consisting only of "Would [name redacted] be willing to talk with Paul A. Clayton?" "[expletive deleted] No. I'm sorry." "I am sorry too."
The poetic exaggeration may not be as great as hindsight might feel. Although I don't think I felt my actions displayed extreme malice (rather extreme insensitivity and substantial selfishness) and did not feel quite the enormity of transformation, I vaguely remember feeling much more alone after the call. "Share the Pain" was a quote from one of her letters; yes, I did demonstrate a persistence in causing her (and others) pain.
The alternating feminine and masculine rhyme and the associated "borrowing" of an unstressed syllable in the lines after the feminine ending seem to contribute substantially to the tone. The slightly shorter lines with masculine rhyme might be a little more forceful. The parallelism in the phrases also seems to contribute to the feel of the work.
Tears of Dawn
The water falls upon the rocks;
the waves come crashing down.
The morning's light shines in the mists,
the shore's dull diamond crown.
I walk alone to greet the sun
and weep the tears of dawn;
all mortal beauty passes swift
and joy is soon withdrawn.
The morning's tears are quickly lost
within the salty spray,
and none will know that I have cried
and died to greet the day.
Such little deaths mark out our lives
but brief release from pain
and all our hopes are shattered on
the shores we'd hoped to gain.
Beauty recalls what I have lost
and dawning hope is gone.
Each morning's dawn of loneliness
my heart is broken on the rocks.
[completed 28 June 1991]
Numerically significant alterations were made 5 June 1997. In line 1: "waves fall harsh" replaced "water falls"; in line 2: "water crashes" replaced "waves come crashing"; in line 3: "Yet" replaced "The"; in line 5: "and" replaced "to"; in line 6: "I" replaced "and"; in line 8: "its" replaced "and"; in line 9: "Yet" replaced "This"; in line 11: "so" replaced "and"; in line 14: "with" replaced "but". I decided (9 May 2019) to revert them; they seemed to soften the tone unnecessarily. At the same time I replaced "This" (that had become "Yet") in line 9 with "The", "this" in line 12 with "the", in line 15 "and" replaced "when" (these may also have been earlier wordings). I guess the 5 June 1997 changes were motivated by a desire to soften the harshness and depressive feel of the work.
This developed from an imagining of waves striking a rocky shore in the early morning while someone burdened with sorrow walked the shore to cry alone.
The meter seems to give a sense of ebb and flow and the phrasing matches this feel. The directness (statements versus reasoning of "yet" and "so") of the restored form seems to add to the intensity of the feelings, and the removal of specificity ("its", "this", and "when") increases the sense of persistence and breadth of sorrow.
For Good or Ill
|Estranged be steel.||All strength can be used|
|to hurt or to heal.||These hands have power|
|for woe or for weal.||My words have strength|
|to break or to bind.||So both must be reined,|
|the mouth and the mind.||Thus may I be free|
|to feel and to find —||yet fear holds my fate.|
[Completed 16 July 1991]
This was an early attempt at using the alliterative form. I was exposed to the form by J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of "Gawain and the Green Knight", which included a description of the form.
The use of "internal" rhyme strengthens the mid-line break and leaves the last half-line as a hanging, haunting ending (after the second triplet of rhymed lines presents a completeness).
The content does reflect my difficulty with responsibility; power presents a wonderful opportunity to do good but also the fearful danger of doing harm.
(At some point I need to come back and change this from using tables for layout to more modern html, but that will require some research. My other alliterative work, "The March at Washington", has the same problem.)
Delicate white perfections
dancing on the wind,
Elegant, pure confections
falling to the ground.
[completed 21 November 1991]
This is a very short simple work, yet it shows much of my nature. "Delicate" and "perfections" as descriptions of snowflakes speak of my sentimental and idealistic nature. "dancing", "Elegant", and "pure" have romantic overtones. "Confections" (as well as "dancing on the wind) has a playful/imaginative sense. "falling to the ground" has a sorrowful sense (not necessarily depressive but sad).
Yesterday I held
a pale flower in my hand.
Why has it wilted?
crystalline beauty's broken
by grasping man's greed.
[completed June 1992]
Originally (29 January 1992) the first two lines were merged and "pale" had not been added. Two days later "pale" was added and the lines divided. The second stanza was joined to the first in June and "human" changed to "man" to match the 5-7-5 syllabic form.
While these are not true haiku, they do have some slight similarities.
The tone has significant similarities to "For Good or Ill".
And if I do not say "hello,"
Or greet you, smiling, with my eyes,
Do not call this a cruel blow,
I beg you, please, do not despise.
My fears withhold the kindness dear
That's owed to every passing fair.
My eyes avert showing too clear
The crudeness of my heart's despair.
The silence hurts but little if
Compared to pains from opened hearts,
Less harm in one reaction stiff,
A hurting once which soon departs.
[completed 30 May 1992]
Poetically this seems to be one of my weaker writings. While the title and iambic tetrameter provide a lighter tone as if trying to minimize the harm done by passing with a stiff rather than friendly reaction, the words are strong and somewhat harsh.
I still feel some affinity to the sentiment of this work, though I am now more outwardly friendly (which does sometimes disguise a darker mood).
A Reaction to Sonnets from the Portuguese
"What oft was thought," but that is not quite true;
The author must be given her full due.
These sonnets treat upon a common theme,
But soar beyond what most would even dream.
Within my own thoughts one would not have found
Such fierce and biting feelings seeking sound.
The noblest in my heart that one might find
But touched upon the edges of her mind.
As with the elephant and the blind men,
Most feel but parts and vaguely even then.
While still mere parts seemed the romantic soul,
She spoke a word and thus defined the whole.
Thus she has shown the highest one might seek,
And shown love as magnificent and meek.
The nature of a few might so be dressed,
But love, before, was "ne'er so well expressed."
[almost entirely written 24 December 1992]
(A few lines and ideas came 23 December 1992, alterations to the thirteenth and fourteenth lines were made a little later, and "three blind men" was changed to "the blind men" considerably later to conform to the parable.)
The beginning and ending quote comes from Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism, "True wit is nature to advantage dressed/What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed." The work u
Alone with One's Regrets
I sit within the shade of leafy limbs —
a poor exchange for her warm arms' embrace —
and cry away the clinging fear which lames
my broken heart from leaving my hubris.
"Away, away, dear earthy fay, the best
of loves must not be sown with painful seed."
Those words of pain came from this prideful beast,
who thought it less by thinking "death" unsaid.
Past days, now years, the planned-for death undone,
and life no nearer seeming than before,
alone, I lie with faults none could condone,
no love, no touch, not even friendly fur.
[completed 10 August 1993]
This is another example of the use of analysed rhyme (though only approximated in the last stanza), which seems to draw out more interesting associations in order to form the rhymes yet is also more vulnerable to forced usage. The work is rich with sound play yet has a softness that matches the sadness; the subtly of analysed rhyme probably helps in this.
Although the sitting under a tree, crying, and being physically embraced are entirely imagined, the sentiment seems true to what I felt at the time. Mourning my prideful rejection of relationship (supposedly protecting others when secretly considering suicide) has sometimes helped reduce isolating fears. Yet even when suicide seems unlikely, hope and peace and the opportunity to express affection may still be lacking.
The March at Washington
|The time was October,||on the twenty first day|
|those gallant ones gathered.||Beginning at dusk|
|they set themselves||in position behind|
|their upraised writing,||the reason for their march|
|blazoned bold on that banner:||"Take Back the Night"|
|the cloth declared.||With clarity of purpose|
|they met for their march,||meaning by this act|
|to stand against fear.||Strong were their reasons|
|when women must beware||and wickedness seeks|
|to deny them the night||that none could walk safely|
|at leisure alone.||Not least of the evils|
|adding dread to night's darkness,||the danger of rape|
|was their central concern.||Those sisters knew well|
|the ill they would end,||what honor is lost|
|in fraternal betrayal.||In this treachery's vilest|
|deeds of darkness||adoring and loving's|
|votary virtue||by virulence becomes|
|the forcing of fear.||Thus falls the high gift|
|of marital meeting||when men do not hold dear|
|what comes for their keeping.||With courage they marched,|
|their songs resounding,||and certain in heart|
|they entered the night,||not knowing the ill|
|they would find in their faring,||manifested in men|
|to whom devilty is daring.||Les dames de merci|
|would show hope on that hilltop,||so, hearts emboldened|
|they set to their circuit.|
|Unsensed the attackers|
|awaited the women.||As their way was ending|
|the marchers would meet them,||their menace prepared —|
|the hose hauled out||and held in waiting|
|their prey to impale.||The approach of the women|
|braced the two butchers,||as their Brothers watched|
|from their shadowed sheltered.||Shielded by height|
|the ambusher's allies,||eager to taunt,|
|unleashed their libels.||"Lover's of women"|
|they called from their castle.||Undiscouraged the women|
|continued their treading,||not troubled by words|
|ineffective and false.||For the Fair and the Good|
|are well-worthy of worship,||and as women show these|
|to a greater degree,||even girls might seek|
|the embrace of bodies||so brimming with virtue|
|confused with the flesh||and that fire divine|
|they might hope to hold.||Hands have formed idols|
|for reasons less righteous.||Raised above fear|
|their columns came cleanly,||near closing their march|
|they met the mad menace.||The mean-hearted wounders,|
|prepared to break peace,||then put themselves forward|
|as phantasmal foes.||Their faces were hidden|
|with hockey masks hateful —||a horror-filled movie|
|as source for their sickness.||The savages soaked them|
|and poured out their poison,||impaling the fair ones|
|with phallic effluence.||The fear and the hurt|
|the attackers intended||but turned the marchers|
|to face their foul foes.||Enfolded by their purpose,|
|as witness to all women's worth,||their way of response|
|their virtue expressed,||not vengeful spirit|
|nor angry hearts.||Their reaction came|
|from rightful despising;||the wrong to expel|
|they marched en masse||at the men whose malice|
|would defile their effort.||Empty of fear|
|the women came,||wet and comfortless,|
|toward those two,||who, taking note,|
|fled in fear,||faceless no longer —|
|for their maulers' masks||in the mud had fallen.|
|The march was finished,||and friends met the marchers|
|with comfort and kindness.||Their candle would not|
|be quenched so quickly.|
||Soon questions brought|
|the offenders forward.||The foes of the women,|
|admitting their meanness,||with mild correction|
|were freed from their fault.||Yet in defense of their act|
|vile words were wielded.||"Against women less bold|
|our attack was intended,"||they told their accusers,|
|confessing their folly.||Yet further their words|
|showed surely their shame.||Shameful false-speaking|
|all lacking in wisdom —||the window-cast libels|
|took life from their lie:||from Lesbos they'd said|
|came their Sisters with songs?||But sicklier yet|
|a friend of the wayfarers,||when finding the lie,|
|showed the least of its ill —||to hurt the lesser|
|is a faint offense?||May fire consume|
|all words so wicked!||Yet women still fear|
|dark hearts of hatred||haunting the night|
|toward hurtful ends.||The evil will not|
|be forever broken||though battled often|
|with true intent.||The terror is born|
|in each and all||to end when hearts|
|of stone are destroyed||and restored to all|
|their human homes,||true hearts of flesh.|
[completed 23 October 1993]
(Considerable poetic liberties have been taken with respect to the actual events at Washington University in St. Louis, e.g., the fact that the hose was used to spray the attackers indicates that there was 'vengeful spirit'. For some clarification, 'Brothers' indicates members of a fraternity and the last stanza refers to the attackers claiming that they thought the marchers were sorority members — as if that would justify such — and a person who falsified such in a letter to the student newspaper by pointing out that the fraternity members in the building would not have called out "Lesbians" if they thought they were sorority members, this person did not point out that dowsing sorority members is perhaps equally offensive — 'I can bully these people because they will not complain'. The imitation of Friday the 13th may have been accidental, merely a convenient way to hide identity, but I would not be surprised if it had been intentional. The phallic symbolism of the hose was mentioned by a (female) friend who had participated; such brings considerable irony given the issues the march was seeking to highlight.)
This is another example of alliterative verse and fits somewhat well with the epic tone one might expect from such. Unlike "For Good or Ill", rhyme is not used to decorate the verse (which would be difficult in such a long work while also trying to maintain the significance of the alliterative form).
I think the strong pauses in the middle of lines gives a much more running feel to this form. The mid-line break gives some sense of completion but the need to complete the alliteration drives the reader forward. This seems to work well for longer works which might otherwise seem more tiring.
I do not agree with the implication that Lesbian behavior is acceptable, though my idealization of women does (as presented) make such seem both more Platonic and more understandable. I also do not see any support for the implied universalism of "all their human homes"; I do not especially like limited salvation, but when strong evidence indicates the one who saves taught that many are damned it seems more reasonable to reject any salvation than to embrace wishful thinking. Such departures from even the author's views might fall under poetic license.
Another Kind of Death
Death's calls in darkness hurting wills will test,
but kept by friends from thoughtless freedom's rest,
afraid to act and end or rend their hearts,
I seek the nearest death in sleep, release
from fears and pain and failure — death by parts —,
though fruitless slumber kills all hope of peace.
I hold eyes open through the dark of night
and flee the living busyness and light
of day by sleeping through the morning's hope.
A partial sleep of lethargy can tie
the time in knots of loose despair, a rope
to loop the neck, depending on a lie.
[completed 25 June 1994, c. 3am]
This is another depressive work, but at least it feels a little more mature (probably helped by the use of iambic pentameter). The beginning of the stanzas with a couplet and use of abab for the rest may help draw down the later part of each stanza. The irregularity of the sound play may give a greater sense of a mind in conflict.
There seems to be a lot of truth to the statement that excessive sleep and inactivity are not conducive to hope.
Why These Tears?
O Daughters of the fruitful land,
Why do you mourn the fallen ones
Who fought and died by foreign guns
To meet hard war's demand?
The noble soldier suffers most;
He loves and fights a fellow-foe.
He knows what's hidden here below
And fights with heaven's host.
By dying such suffer no loss
And pass into the clearer light
Where they continue still the fight;
Their prayer exalts the cross.
O Fathers who still stand for right,
Why is your bitter anger raised
By death and pain where honor blazed
And glorified the fight?
The warrior who kills in lust —
And so dies twice by his own choice —
May in dark honor's rage rejoice
And treat all men as dust,
But when he learns the better part
That valor's pride has never shown,
When crushed beneath the Cornerstone,
He'll mourn his stony heart.
O Mothers who in tears have shed
Your children's blood for others' good,
Why do you wet the coffins' wood
With crying for the dead?
The brave, the fearful who have died
And passed beyond their final test
Have won their sweet or bitter rest
And in that peace abide.
Within your bounds the war goes on
And souls are lost or won each day.
Are you still weeping as you pray
For those whose love is gone?
O Sisters, Brothers, Country-kin,
Why do we weep for lesser ills?
The darkness in our homeland chills
And slowly creeps within.
[started and completed 19 June 1996]
("Beyond the eastern strand" was changed to "To meet hard war's demand" on 10 July 1996.)
I think this was written in preparation for a poetry sharing session with an Independence Day orientation.
Although I agree with the sentiment, I think this is one of my weaker works. The stanza's form seems both to soften and to strengthen the slightly shorter last line. The breaking of the pattern of three stanzas per "family member" may provide some lingering of the closing stanza and its last line particularly.
"This is the band of that blame I bear on my neck,
This is the humbling and the loss that I laugh to have
Of cowardice and coveting that I have caught there;
This is the token of untruth that I am taken in
And I must needs it wear while I may last"
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
lines 2506-2510 (modernized/translated)
This sash of shame that knights now wear in jest
to little make my failing, strikes its knife
across a heart that feels its heavy blame.
How grave a truth may simple cloth proclaim!
This lively, lady's green recalls that test
of faith and truth, my choice of breath, not life.
Yet knights would make this band a sign of fame.
They mirror shameful marks in light good will
and seek to mend my fault, as one might fill
cracks in a hero's stone with bitter lime.
None but God's blood could kill this evil name
I placed upon myself by lying then —
faithless at last, if better than all men
who walk the earth in this now darker time.
[finished 11 March 1997](Twelve lines of this were completed 17 February 1997; on 11 March lines 4 and 7 were added with the changing of "Knights mirror to "they mirror". "Marks of shame" was later changed to "shameful marks".)
This sonnet has an unusual rhyme scheme (abccabcddecffe) which seems to work with the sense in several places. The initial unrhymed three lines may give something of a feel of bare narration and the first rhyme in the fourth line (especially forming a couplet) strengthens the emphasis of that exclamation. The next two lines continue the narrative feel and the turn comes at the seventh live (rather than the ninth line of a Petrarchan sonnet). The following couplet seems to quicken the pace and "lime" almost rhymes with "fame", giving an uncertain sense of completion. The eleventh line provides the actual rhyme with "fame", perhaps causing a fracture and reforming of expectation. The couplet of the twelfth and thirteenth lines then seems to strengthen the confidence of the reader making the final line's rhyming with the earlier "lime" rather than the closer "name" have both a more haunting and a more satisfying feel.
Sound play with consonnants is relatively common, giving perhaps a little bit of a nod to the alliterative form of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The vocabulary and phrasing also has a somewhat archaic and knightly feel.