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~~a Sonnet Redoublé~~

It’s been years since I composed one of these insanely long forms. The sonnet redoublé, also known as a crown of sonnets, consists of 14 interconnected poems, 14 lines each, concluding with a 15th, the “crown”. With all except the final sonnet, a traditional rhyme scheme is used. I chose Shakespearean (ababcdcdefefgg) because you only have to rhyme the toughest words once.

Redoublés are fun for two reasons. First, they circle round like a daisy chain. The last line of each sonnet becomes the opening line of the next, all the way to the 14th, which ends with the first line of poem #1. Then, you incorporate all the first lines to create the 15th, the crown sonnet, which hopefully makes some kind of esoteric sense. Or not.

If you’ve spent time at my blog, you’ll know I’m partial to form poetry, especially glosas. The medieval Spanish form allows me to pay homage to a poet by selecting a favourite quatrain and expanding it in a kind of mind meld to 16 lines.

To honour Federico Garcia Lorca’s life and body of work, I wanted something more intricate. This crown of sonnets, 210 lines, I dedicate to him.

I

Today’s a good day for reading Lorca.
The rivers are clogged with expectation,
and my biodegradable fork, a
feeble idea, dissolved. Tarnation
is the new black, have you heard? Eternal
cycling from, we’re all going to die, to fie,
what yonder star retweets me? Diurnal,
rusty-winged moths with double tiger eye
know better than to rub their dust on sills.
True nature leaves no trace repeatable,
and yet again is what we crave, more thrills
that shrink with every curséd syllable.
I’ve unknowns still uncounted to deploy,
surprises by the wayside to enjoy.

II

Surprises by the wayside to enjoy
fly past the inert bullet of I know.
Familiarity’s a prick, a ploy
that hardens like cement. It cannot flow
beyond itself. Sure, the satisfaction
of a sour belch is undeniable,
but does it need an audience? Action
from the gut will prove most reliable
when whispered to the heart. A bitter tongue,
first cousin to a slaver’s whip, derives
her pleasure from reduction, calling dumb
whoever disagrees and thus, survives.
The kind of thinking once called critical
has desiccated to the cynical.

III

Has desiccated to the cynical
like coconut in shreds improved our lot?
Sometimes a whinery of comical
produces half-digestible merlot,
but if I’ve tried your viewpoint thrice and spat,
your cherry nose and cardboard undertones
won’t spur me to explore your discount rack.
I’ll find a Spanish poet with good bones
and practice conjugations of to be
until I can distinguish who I am
from who I tried to be. Not hard to see
in darkened rooms I know, but where’s the glam?
Too many friends I’ve lost to hopelessness,
a most unprofitable business.

IV

A most unprofitable business
seems a peculiar thing to follow, yet
every moment spent deploring, I miss
another vital chance to grow my net.
Creation knows no negative; it flows
in one direction, forward, shucking all
that won’t keep up. To willing hearts, it shows
in fleeting increments the secret call
that all of us, devoid of guilt and blame,
do not give up at death. The Spaniard wrote:
But all must know I did not die. No shame
accompanied his hope. On this I dote.
My sonnet crown is scarce a third complete,
but I must rest. I will return, replete.

V

But I must rest. I will return, replete,
replenished. Thoreau promised, Emerson
and Franklin too, to bring new versions sweet
wherein the joyful carries on, person
after person—short lives, long, tragical
or magical, tyrannical or—wait!
Systems of belief? Problematical.
Oh, how I’d love to give it you to straight,
cite another thousand who believe—no!
I walked that serpent road to no avail,
convinced myself your interest, at first so
keen, was proof. Of what? We’re doomed to fail?
The only thing we’re doomed to is belief.
The content’s up to you, not me. Relief!

VI

The content’s up to you, not me. Relief
is like the speck at every tunnel’s end
of light, a nose above deep water. Grief
will have its way when dying kin or friend
departs, but must I make it resident?
If so, says who? Chronic anger, too,
corrodes my limbic ease. No president
or premier ever will climb up my flue.
Attention’s far too valuable to waste
on creatures, sods, and views opposed my ken.
The moral high ground is a mash of paste
& sticks & stones that hurt but never bend.
And while I miss your flash of smile and wit,
This fishy brain too many times has bit.

VII

This fishy brain too many times has bit
the barbéd hooks that hang from riverbanks.
Some worms, I must admit, give quite a hit,
though I am oft too generous with thanks.
If thus far you have traveled, friend, advice
I freely give. Who quickly notes a flaw
but never compliments is built of ice
and will not tolerate, for long, your thaw.
There is great industry in victimhood,
and martyrdom still holds a sway, but way
beyond these glaciated pools lie good
the likes of which you cannot see today.
You need not die to enter Paradise.
Behold your hand. No other holds the dice.

VIII

Behold your hand. No other holds the dice.
A guidebook with the odds you’ll get at birth:
polarities of DNA and vice,
exposure to the best of life or worst;
but life is not a sentence, it’s a poem
not a crap shoot but a house that favours
you within a vast hemispheric dome
like Hagia Sophia of flavours,
scents & friendships for your select choosing.
What hems me in are not the rules. My thoughts
can soar beyond what is to cruising
heights and imagine floating garden plots.
Like the ancients did in Xochimilco,
I will see the best and let my will go.

IX

I will see the best and let my will go
deep or sideways, lose myself in crowds or
stand on stage alone and feel the lights blow
out, like at the Globe. If I’m wanting more,
then more is right. It’s all so simple when
I surrender belief that there’s a pie
with slices growing skinnier. A pen
well wrought can grind to crumbs the fattest lie.
I am no child of adverse circumstance,
nor are you. I will not lord my pity
over equals. I’d rather learn their dance
and feel the broken tiles of their city.
I see the witty brightness in your eyes,
assured that tragedy’s a thin disguise.

X

Assured that tragedy’s a thin disguise,
I’m tempted toward Shakespearean or rock
bands from the 70s. Oh, how life flies
in the face of stubbornness! So much schlock
around debates and conversations. You,
dear Lorca, walked into the worst of them.
Did they who pulled the triggers first review
their stance on right humanity? We hem,
rebut, we haw; the loudest of us seem
to win, step up to podiums and grin,
behold the size of me! A nasty dream,
it is upon us. How else to begin
this day? This day. There is no other way.
Such past as merits keeps the worst at bay.

XI

Such past as merits keeps the worst at bay,
so do not scratch it up again. A bored
and empty mind will crave its dimshit say.
God knows, Facebook posts work like a toy sword.
I love the meme: is it true? Is it kind?
Is it necessary? Two out of three
IS bad, sour belcher! Are you mean—or blind?
Restraint, like all good things, is also free.
Enough of me. Poetic roads run long
sometimes, and tedium gets in the way.
Ennui creeps into clockworks with a bong
upside the head and does not go away—
or so it seems. I want the wildest dreams
and will not cease my poking at new schemes.

XII

And will not cease my poking at new schemes.
Like all good children everywhere, I want
and want the better and the more it seems
I let them in, they come. No need to haunt
the hollow halls of other people’s fears.
Projection is a curious thing. Doc Jung,
he knew the value of a shadow. Weres
and vampires, real or not, know how to bung
a body electric. Does one suck it
up, the stupid arrogance of power-
hungry maniacs, or take the full bit
in one’s mouth? Horse feathers! I’ll seize this hour
and ride it how I like—slow walk, canter,
maybe gallop for the thrill. Such banter…

XIII

Maybe gallop for the thrill, such banter,
self-indulgence, long live the metaphor!
Will this crown of fucking sonnets ever
find a door?! I’m crawling, Rico! This floor
of azulejo tiles reverberates
with the music of your plays and poems.
Where’er you fell, you are not there; the gaits
of Andalusian lovers are your home.
With varieties of tongue, you’re jambing
truths to anyone with ears, belly, heart.
Dactyls, trochees, or Anglo iambing,
you do it all with verve. You help me start
with duende and from there it’s anywhere;
I feel your words like raindrops in my hair.

XIV

I feel your words like raindrops in my hair
of fabled storylands that flow through blood.
Uncorking bottles stored in caves and lairs.
I want to hold a fistful of the mud
tramped down by boots marching to a bugle
played by a black-haired youth whose eye you caught,
and catch the lust that is never frugal,
for what is passion but a sweet onslaught
of atomic dance, unseeable to
all but lover and beloved who trust
and won’t adhere to webs of reason’s glue?
I shall begin. This moment, here, I must.
Diving new depths like a mother orca,
today’s a good day for reading Lorca.

XV – The Crown

Today’s a good day for reading Lorca
surprises by the wayside. To enjoy
has desiccated to the cynical,
a most unprofitable business,
but I must rest. I will return, replete.
The content’s up to you, not me. Relief,
this fishy brain too many times has bit.
Behold your hand. No other holds the dice.
I will see the best and let my will go,
assured that tragedy’s a thin disguise.
Such past as merits keeps the worst at bay
and will not cease my poking at new schemes.
Maybe gallop for the thrill, such banter—
I feel your words like raindrops in my hair.

© Elaine Stirling, 2018

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