I rode upon an elephant
By name of Raja Khan
His pedigree was excellent
The pride of Pakistan
In stature he was solid
A figure fine and firm
As strong as he was stolid
An impressive pachyderm
Aloof and somewhat nervous
He earned his reputation
Through dedicated service
To palace transportation
. With careful stride and gentle sway
. He set the pace of a yesterday.
To the reader: I imagine days of empire being stiff as starch; stodgy. Stifled by establishment that imposed upon the underclassses rigid rules and regulations designed to further entrench the advantages of birth and social position. But, attached to my construction of the past is a stolid image best portrayed by the permanence of a slow moving pachyderm. In the elephant’s gentle sway I see remnants of a yesterday when circumspect rhythms gave poise to forward motions.
To the poet: A simple little poem, neat and compact; some might say trite. A parlor painting lost of real significance but nonetheless holding its place on the wall as it has done for many generations. The very short lines are packed with alliteration and because of brevity tend to over emphasize the forced rhymings. In an attempt to help the narrative flow unbroken through the sonnet I’ve given it no punctuation … save the final period.
The card said “get well soon”
It granted “wisdom and future wealth”
The card wished “the best of fortune”
Along with “happiness and health”.
The card wished “the best of travels”
“Bon voyage and safe return”
The card is deep with wishing wells
For those who are drawn to yearn.
The card laments both grief and loss
With kindly words of solace,
The card provides a temporary gloss
A wish if not a promise.
. The card is wise with thoughtful adage,
. Delivers hope in place of ravage.
To the reader: The card is an expression of considered thought delivered as an accompaniment. When the moment has gone and all remains is a chance to reflect it’s then the card finds its purpose. More than a note, a card requires careful selection and then more so personalization. In drafting the card’s message, the art is to maintain a genuine voice in the construction of a unique and/or memorable truth.
To the poet: The card as a singular object with multiple functions is the focus of this sonnet. Each couplet begins with ‘The card…’ and then picks up on a range of cliched phrases that have populated cards on mantel shelves throughout time. In writing about ‘the’ card rather than ‘a’ card allows this sonnet to generalize the simple principle as expressed in the final couplet.
None of us would stand a chance
If time did have its way,
With the certainty of circumstance
At odds we’d have to stay.
If time was let to run its course,
To stop and start at will,
We’d live our lives in deep remorse
And all would be there still.
If time ignored the pendulum
And tomorrow never came,
We’d have no rules on when to come
And the prompt would have no claim.
. The power of the hour we may hope to regulate,
. But ever is the measure we are left to contemplate.
To the reader: At best we only ever grow to understand the value of time. If not to be wasted, time’s ultimate currency of conversion must be experience. Spending time to understand time is therefore a worthwhile pursuit … a pursuit we call planning. Through planning we maximize opportunities to work with, rather than against, the tyranny of time.
To the poet: The long/short syllabic rhythm of the first eight paired lines are satisfying. Later in my sonnet writing I buckled under and became more consistent in adhering to the Shakespearian iambic-pentameter. At this stage, I was using my own natural (naive) rhythm that appears to be expressed in a ratio of about 8 to 6 syllables per pair of lines. The last two lines (the final couplet) are very long and contain internal rhymes that might be clever, but do nothing to help the poem end on a rhythmic high.
Along with all the brides of March
It’s here her vows were made.
Underneath the wedding arch
Umbrellaed in the shade.
He walked beside her gown of lace
It shimmered in the sun.
Fair of face, and full of grace,
Her single thread was spun.
From he to he, she gave her heart
In spirit and in kind,
He met her eyes in whole and part
From here the two entwined.
. ‘Love is all you need’ to keep the fire aglow,
. ‘All you need is love’ is all you need to know.
To the reader: In the temperate zone of the southern hemisphere March is a beautiful month. It’s free from the extremes of Summer and ripe with the fruits of harvest. All told, an ideal month for marriage. Blue skies and the final blush of Summer create an ideal setting. The moderate nature of this time of year extends to its generous retreat from the forefront of celebrations. As a beautiful backdrop it allows the bridal party to shine … and together they glow.
To the poet: The personalization of a sonnet limits its reach and compromises the poet’s observer status. She, the bride and daughter, transfers her commitment from him to he beneath a wedding arch in March; and love will see them through. Throughout the poem I have made references that those who experienced the wedding first-hand will recognize; but like the “in joke” these shouldn’t limit the sonnet’s more universal understanding.
Does a rose hold its own beauty sacred,
Therefore hide itself from view?
What, for goodness sake, was said,
To reason this as true?
That in a garden bed of colour
There’s need to paint the petals,
Tone them down and make them duller,
Through reason – this unsettles.
Surely there’s no natural order,
That inhibits how it grows,
The rambling rose should have no border,
To limit how it glows.
. When from nature we attempt to mimic,
. Take care the rules are not just gimmick.
To the reader: Beauty is an attractive gift and nature’s best designs are worthy of genuine admiration. There’s a natural inclination to respond to, and appreciate, appealing combinations of color, line and form. It seems perverse that we should attempt to hide or disguise a natural gift. It’s only when a gift is treated like a possession that it becomes an object of desire; and thus exposed to the ugliness of lust. The beauty of a rose is ours to share not own.
To the poet: The three stanzas in this sonnet work separately but amount to a neatly formed exposition of thought. The beginning stanza poses a question and to provide some context outlines the issue with reference to a colorful garden. The second stanza reinforces the issue by expanding on the problem. The final stanza makes a statement in preparation of the final couplet which neatly concludes the sonnet… a simple but effective sequence and line of thought.
When to a lie a child commits,
He surrenders to its course.
Piece by piece, uneasy fits,
Held side by side by force.
With fragile scripted narrative,
His thread and weft are broken.
Thinly spun, a gossamer weave,
His web is deftly spoken,
Upon belief his tale depends,
And so he grips by tooth and nail.
But, alas, the more the boy defends
The less does truth prevail.
. When from fantasy a tale is fetched,
. By necessity it is also stretched.
To the reader: Concealment of truth, as in a lie, creates an uncomfortable personal bind. As self-serving creatures we learn to deceive and distract; to confuse reality with the telling of plausible but misleading explanations. A child’s naive attempts at telling a lie lack subtlety and lead to all manner of tangled contortions. The depth of belief and conviction in a lie marks its destructive capability. Commitment to a lie unleashes its power to grip tightly and strangle the teller.
To the poet: The child in this sonnet is nameless and universal, although his sex is clearly male. While I often try to create a genderless persona this isn’t always practical or useful. Being male, my own reference point is masculine; and so through social construction my default articles of definition tend to be seen through a frame of he and him.