Seven Sonnets for Valentine's Day
Seven Sonnets for Valentine's Day
I thought I'd mark the occasion with a collection of a few of my sonnets on a romantic theme. Perhaps not strictly love poems in the normal sense, all are in some way related to love. I hope you find something to enjoy in them.
Nowadays, most of us tend to choose our valentine card(s!) or worse, e-cards, by the picture. The verse inside, if there is one, is usually a pretty perfunctory effort, short, formulaic, clichéd and of no intrinsic worth. But there was a time, a mere four hundred years ago, when a gentleman would consider it correct form to spend time crafting an original poem for his lady. And for the Renaissance gentleman, the poem of choice would most often be a sonnet. The sonnet was, and still is, unsurpassed in its power to express depth of thought and intense emotion together and to sustain both through its full fourteen lines.
This first one, Travellers, is about a chance encounter in a commuter train.
No crash, no broken glass, no injury.
A mild derailment, quiet loss of power
or small mechanical catastrophe,
enough to leave us stranded for an hour,
is all I ask. The driver can explain
politely to three hundred fretting souls
how trivial the loss, how rare the gain
in marking time by Mirton-under-Moles,
at which we acquiesce, and one by one
find friends behind each dull commuting stare -
fierce devotees of Guardian and Sun
in temporary comradeship. Aware
of precious company and circumstance,
we talk, we two. There is no room to dance.
And this one, Something Pressing, tries to capture some of the urgency we feel with advancing years...
Some call it courtship, some a waste of time,
the candlelight, the mandatory flowers,
the amateurish dalliance with rhyme,
the quaint preponderance of glades and bowers,
The evening dress that catches on the heel
and in the door of every cab in town,
the standing in the station, when you feel
much more inclined to burn the bastard down.
We've done it all, with patience and decorum.
We could continue, but we're growing old.
Time murmurs in my ear "You've had a quorum
of hearts and valentines. Why not be bold?"
So come and play the pepper to my salt,
quickly, before we're tantric by default.
Have you ever been shocked to realise that you've fallen in love? That someone has come into your life when you weren't looking?
I was a lover once before the curve
of melancholy closed around my joy
tightening close, so close my spirit starved
for light, for air, for laughter. Did I try
to break the bond, to set my future free
and win again the pleasures I had known?
No! for the sleep was on me. I would say
"Here is maturity. All that is gone
is youth, and I am not the boy I was."
"Wisdom", my folly said, "is higher aim
than love", and I was flattered to express
blind acquiescence. Dullness had me tamed.
How could I know that fate would lead me to you?
Christ, I'm in love, and hale-bloody-lujah !
This one, Phoenix, is more nostalgic than immediate. I'm sure we all have memories.
A love remembered is a love too long
forgotten. Pictures fade but do not age
as lovers do, though tenderness belong
to every reawakening on the stage
of memory. And now I know you as
a poem I crammed away, in innocence
of meaning, empty word chains in a class
of carefree boys. The lines are gone. The sense,
no longer bound to rote, is free to fly,
to change, return again, and to surprise
my equanimity with sudden joy.
And slow regret, born as I realise
our youth, our love, are photographs of snow -
frozen forever, melted long ago.
And this one, With Coffee, is one of these moments of recognition, in the aftermath of a candlelit dinner.
Slight movement. Now your shadow on the map
blends into mine, and with the candle's rays
occluded we imagine light is scarce,
so I lean forward too. Your hair and mine,
together now, need not be recognised
as touch, and so we do not draw away.
And where your finger traces out the route
we ought to choose, your hesitation shows
that gentle contradiction from my own
might not be unforeseen. My Northern Line
meets yours at Camden Town, our fingertips
and futures touch as one, laughed in a glance
that lingers, deepens, burns from pure surprise
to find reflection in another's eyes.
My second last, voices, is about layers of communication above the literal meaning of what we say.
our voices know each other in a tongue
we barely understand - words follow words
through turns of everyday - what we have done
what we have said - to whom - things we have heard
ephemeral meanings floated on a stream
like paper galleys - these - the stuff of sense
of caveats - when in a doubting time
we question why and find the answer less
than reason - still - an echo of the sound
prevails - an intertwining of your tone
and mine - your cadences - my counterpoint
our rise and fall - a sweeter music than
we care to name is ours - our voices have
learned to transcend the dull taboos of love
I'm giving the last word to my friend Herbie Vaugh, an incorrigible garrulous bungler and renowned bore. This is his attempted sonnet:
Rest, Valentine, where music soaks your bed
and troubles die, hastened by smelly flecks
of coriander from pomander fled
carried on fan-made winds, the trailing flex
slipped safely out of sight with scarce a sound.
Invisible - like shy potatoes growing
for us to eat below the very ground
we walk above though from the path not going -
inaudible as well, like thoughts of you
that sneak unbidden, hidden in my skull,
cave of my brain, shape of my head's skin too,
nice thoughts, I get them when the weather's dull.
So rest there, Valentine, if that's OK
I think that's most of what I meant to say.
This hub will probably be flagged for duplicate content, because all of these poems are already on my personal website. If you would like to read more, There's a link to my site on my Profile page.
Thank you for reading!