Tag Archives: Sonnet

Iambic Pentameter Horror

eldersign

 

The Iambic Pentameter Horror

 

I never thought that this would happen, but

it seems my wife has inadvertently

discovered certain ancient arcane arts

revealed in lurid yellowed magazines.

 

She references illustrations, like:

“A woman lashed against a stake, alight,”

“A man impaled upon a fleshy thing.”

She tells me that the stars will soon be right.

 

I’d rather not provoke her to explain

the blasphemies she whispers in her sleep

or why the neighbors vanish without trace.

She has a hobby! Gruesome, it may be,

 

but if Cthulhu brings her happiness

then by the mythos, that is fine by me!

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Sonnet Redouble’

Sonnet Redouble’

 

I

My first coherent memory was made

the Saturday our home exploded, when

a water heater blew (or so it went)

while Mom had walked me down the lane to play

 

in Daddy’s workshop. There, we lived for years,

but never called home. Daddy hid us there—

no phone, no guests, no parties filled the air,

and kindergarten brought some cause for fear.

 

“If friends invite you after school to play

at their place,” Mama said, “just tell them no

but thank them for the offer. Don’t say why,

though. You know things just have to be this way.”

 

And in her tone, an urgent need—“So please,

dear, when they ask about our…house…just lie.”

 

II

Dear, when they ask about our house, just lie

about the tin roof and the single room

we’ve finished. Say your father works at home,

and privacy is utmost in his mind.

 

A child accepts his lines because he’s told

it’s for the best. But secretly believes,

deep down, it could be far worse. Snow falls deep

that winter. Heaters glow. He isn’t cold

 

or hungry. He makes angels in the snow

beside the lake, almost as if to thank

someone who says “I try. My God, I try,

so give me strength.” His angels melted, though,

 

in quiet desperation on the bank

beside the lake. My father taught me why.

 

III

Beside the lake, my father taught me why

the copperheads would nest beneath the boat,

how cattails, crushed, send clouds of seeds afloat

into the sky. How swiftly slaps could fly

 

because (he said) the time had come, that day,

to swim and I refused to take the leap

beneath the waters. I could sense the deep

dark serpents drawing curves in search of prey.

 

The scent of algae, honeysuckle, sweat

and whiskey filled the silence, then, between

apologies half-meant, half-slurred, halfway

between the strokes of oars and his regret.

 

Alone, returning to the lake unseen,

I thought that I might swim the shame away.

 

IV

I thought that I might swim the shame away

that day at Daddy Pete and Granny’s place.

Their neighbors had a pool, two kids my age

who let me swim. They laughed and called me gay

 

because I said that Aquaman was cool

instead of G.I. Joe, I guess. “What’s gay?”

I asked, not knowing then, but in a way

suspecting: something undesirable.

 

Recoiling from their taunts, instead, I swam

the creek which ran through bottoms past our farm:

dichotomy of solitude, but then,

I love a good juxtaposition. Am

 

I wrong? Does every retreat cause harm?

A creek might be a wonderland…but when?

 

V

A creek might be a wonderland, but when

the water’s ice cold, you just might contract

a case of hypothermia. You act

so nonchalant, teeth chattering, and then

 

it hits you: this is how the world is: snow

in winter, colors bursting in the fall

as trees give up their leaves. And right now, all

you pray for is the heater’s fan to blow.

 

A skinny dip into cold waters, fun!

Admission never costs a single dime,

but there’s a cost exacted, isn’t there,

for swimming here before the season’s done?

 

The heater in Dad’s truck is taking time.

Impatience simmers underneath my glare.

  

VI

Impatience simmers underneath my glare

After the tenth time that I take a spill

full throttle, headlong down the gravel hill

without my training wheels, and on a dare

 

that costs me stitches on my shins. Who knew

the learning curve could be so bloody steep?

I never cared to look before my leaps,

rejecting wisdom: something children do

 

and then regret, as scars form jagged lines

across the skin, the memories. Our souls

deflate each time an impact knocks the air

from lungs, still learning when we must resign

 

or seek the counsel older people hold.

Forever I will wonder. Was it fair?

  

VII

Forever I will wonder, was it fair?

I went to check, that icy day, before

The cartoons started. Self-appointed chore,

And with a flashlight, found them under there:

 

A mother cat and kittens, six, born deep

beneath the crawlspace sometime in the night.

The pipes had burst, then froze, and at first sight

their stillness chilled me. Silence. Death. With haste,

 

my parents tried to warm them in the sink,

but nothing coaxed their stiffened bodies back

to breath: not prayer, tears, or shame. And then

I blamed myself, and them, and God. I think

 

about that morning when my mood is black.

That winter morning there was talk of sin.

  

VIII

That winter morning there was talk of sin

and Santa’s naughty/nice list. I believed

that jolly fart was monitoring me.

He knew when I was good, or when I’d been

 

condemning action figures to their dooms

beneath the magnifying glass’ glare

or sentencing a friend to take a dare

to suddenly redecorate their room

 

with markers. Still, he brought me presents. More

than I deserved, I guarantee. The thrill,

defying Santa, earns a bit of pride

like someone winning skirmishes in war,

 

and there you have it: unresolved, but still

a mystery the privileged decide.

  

IX

A mystery: the privileged decide

what’s cool, what outfit says: without a doubt

now, you belong. Now you have learned about

the fashions we have chosen: we confide

 

in utmost secrecy, to you, our lore.

The hidden vault of teenage secrets. You

enjoy our wisdom. What to do, and who:

the line between Madonna and the whore.

 

I recognize misogyny, but then

belonging matters more than taking stands.

A freshman pledge can’t leverage much clout

to challenge those of unrepentant sin:

 

my brothers said no guilt lay in their hands.

Belief was never present without doubt.

  

X

Belief was never present. Without doubt,

I knew before I consciously could know

that February evening in the snow,

my faith was miles away from being devout.

 

Abomination, that’s the word they chose

for my kind. Wicca offered solace, calm,

a refuge. Something which would give a balm

upon my soul, if such a thing arose

 

from all my blundering in search of grace.

If such a state exists. A brief reprieve

from ego. I accept that, by their leave,

the schemes of deities will move apace

 

from cynicism– welcomed half-belief

that something mattered. That, at least, I knew.

  

XI

That something mattered. That at least I knew

the way to change a tire, a diaper. Life,

if need be, dead to alive. C.P.R.

I started pre-med—didn’t follow through

 

despite my expectations– they were good,

but passion lay within the arts: at first,

the theatre called, clarion. I could

have wandered deep into those curtained woods,

 

directing, acting, checking all the facts,

or running spotlights. What a life to earn,

from one show to the next. I miss the ride

we shared, performers bonding between acts.

 

Performances today, such passions burn

someone in whom I felt I could confide.                                              

 

XII

Someone in whom I felt I could confide

betrayed me when they hit me, the first time

but not the last. I long, still, for his grime.

Forgive me, but my tastes are ever wide

 

and hungry. I may just forgive you, but

I cannot forget you, nor should I, dear,

though particles of me still hold you near,

I crush them under this unsteady foot.

 

Breaking my necklace: Oh, dude, big mistake.

My mom gave that to me in high school. You

strike me as a kindred soul, though: without.

our loneliness together, we need a break–

 

redemption…is it there for us to earn?

Some secrets hidden from the good devout.

  

XIII

Some secrets hidden from the good devout,

and rightly so. But who, in faith, are they

to say that only those who pay their way

deserve such token kindness here, without

 

the suffering that we were promised, told:

Deliver! Now! Or don’t. It’s all the same.

You only have your empty purse to blame.

And kindness, precious commodity, sold

 

as plates are passed along the pews instead

of tables, empty but for folded bills

or envelopes. We give, and give. We do

this because, more or less, the preacher said:

 

Indulgences make up for weakened wills.

Believers know these things. That must be true!

  

XIV

Believers know these things that must be true

within a given definition. When

questions of interpretation begin,

some hasten to their book to find some clue

 

supporting their pet theory of the week.

Perhaps they find the traction they desire,

mistranslate holy words and promise fire

awaiting those who dare begin to seek

 

another path—a different type of love,

perhaps, or maybe just rejecting war

they bought with offerings each week. Above

all else, their fervor does remind me of

 

a promise that they gave to me before

my first coherent memory was made.

  

XV

My first coherent memory was made—

“Dear, when they ask about our house, just lie

beside the lake.” My father taught me why,

(I thought) that I might swim the shame away.

 

A creek might be a wonderland, but when

impatience simmers underneath my glare

forever, I will wonder: was it fair

that winter morning? There was talk of sin,

 

a mystery the privileged decide.

Belief was never present without doubt

that something mattered. That at least I knew

someone in whom I felt I could confide

 

some secrets hidden from the good devout

believers. Know these things that must be true.

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