Although we live by strife,
We’re always sorry to begin it.
What, we ask, is life
Without a touch of Poetry in it.
Hail, Poetry, thou heav’n-born maid!
Thou gildest e’en the pirate’s trade.
Hail, flowing fount of sentiment!
All hail! All hail! Divine emollient!Gilbert and Sullivan – Pirates of Penzance
American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin
by Terrance Hayes
I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison,
Part panic closet, a little room in a house set aflame.
I lock you in a form that is part music box, part meat
Grinder to separate the song of the bird from the bone.
I lock your persona in a dream-inducing sleeper hold
While your better selves watch from the bleachers.
I make you both gym & crow here. As the crow
You undergo a beautiful catharsis trapped one night
In the shadows of the gym. As the gym, the feel of crow-
Shit dropping to your floors is not unlike the stars
Falling from the pep rally posters on your walls.
I make you a box of darkness with a bird in its heart.
Voltas of acoustics, instinct & metaphor. It is not enough
To love you. It is not enough to want you destroyed.
Copyright Poetry September 2017.
Who said the sonnet is a dried up husk as a literary form? It still lives and breathes fire and ice in the hands of spirited young writers, like Terrance Hayes, who revel in the mastery of 14 lines. Hayes stays within the bounds of tradition enough to give the poem added weight, while loosening the straps of literary restraint enough to wiggle free to write smoothly and with style.
I love this poem. The grinder to separate the song of the bird from the bone, is one hell of a line. Interesting questions come to my mind at the end. What does Hayes love? What does he want destroyed? Tradition? I think he’ll let us decide. I am grateful he is writing clever, thought provoking poetry.
The line “While your better selves watch from the bleachers” made me think of Yeats poem Second Coming and the line; “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
What does Gilbert and Sullivan have to do with anything? A silly reminder, fellow Pirate Kings, to try and keep a sense of humor, despite a whole herd of rough beasts slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.
To listen to Terrance Hayes read his poem, click on the link below to go to the Poetry Foundations website and click on the red arrow near the title.