American Sonnet

“We do not speak like Petrarch or wear a hat like Spenser and it is not fourteen lines like furrows in a small, carefully plowed field

but the picture postcard, a poem on vacation, that forces us to sing our songs in little rooms or pour our sentiments into measuring cups.

We write on the back of a waterfall or lake, adding to the view a caption as conventional as an Elizabethan woman’s heliocentric eyes.

We locate an adjective for the weather.
We announce that we are having a wonderful time.
We express the wish that you were here

and hide the wish that we were where you are, walking back from the mailbox, your head lowered as you read and turn the thin message in your hands.

A slice of this place, a length of white beach, a piazza or carved spires of a cathedral will pierce the familiar place where you remain,

and you will toss on the table this reversible display: a few square inches of where we have strayed and a compression of what we feel.”

~ Billy Collins

American sonnet

Going home the longest way around

“Going home the longest way,
we tell stories, build
from fragments of our lives
maps to guide us to each other.
We make collages of the way
it might have been
had it been as we remembered,
as we think perhaps it was,
tallying in our middle age
diminishing returns.
Last night the lake was still;
all along the shoreline
bright pencil marks of light, and
children in the dark canoe pleading
“Tell us scary stories.”
Fingers trailing in the water,
I said someone I cared for who died
told me in a dream
to not be lonely, told me
not to ever be afraid.
And they were silent, the children,
listening to the water
lick the sides of the canoe.
It’s what we love the most
can make us most afraid, can make us
for the first time understand
how we are rocking in a dark boat on the water,
taking the long way home.”
~ Pat Schneider, Another River: New and Selected Poems
Amherst Writers & Artists Press

a-canoe

The Journey

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

~ Mary Oliver

Journey

Questions

“After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, as what- how- when- where? But there was dawning Nature, in whom all creatures live, looking in at my broad windows with serene and satisfied face, and no question on her lips. I awoke to an answered question, to Nature and daylight.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

SnowRoad-he

In your garden

“I am growing,
I am growing
this hardy flower, me.

Straining through
the muck and weeds
in my struggle
to be free.

A glimmer
through the darkness
glowing faintly
from above.

I am reaching,
I am reaching
toward Your light,
Your love.

The promise
of Your Word
where my fragile
roots take hold,

brings forth a bud
of hope, of hope…
of freedom, yet untold.”

~ Barbara A. Mccabe

english-garden-