A Sonnet Sequence

with head notes from (G. M. Hopkins "Pied Beauty")

i

"Glory be to God for dappled things--"

See here, darling, I bear the scars
from sundry stabbings over turkey,
a little wing, a little wine, an artful
carving to the bone.  A skeleton mars
the end of the meal as stuffed for a feast
of a different kind, we watch cartwheels
on the televised parade, let our guard
fall, critique the charade.  We cast
lots over who'll win the Big Game tomorrow
(there's always a Big Game); we play cards--
you deal.


ii

"For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow."

The angel opens his mouth to give sage
advice to anyone who will hear
his words.  Under his awful gaze
gratitude is where you buy your age
with decent ceremony, a glistened
candle.  The ritual souls blaze
into oil lamps that ignite
yearning for foxglove and curds, splinters
of every wood she has craved, they've razed.
She must catch the angel's eye to fight
her rage.


iii

"For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim."

At dawn, the mountains radiate that rose halo
we can hardly bear after thieving night
has stolen clubfooted into our souls.
The moon hasn't lost her unblinking, slow
hold on the lake's tide.  Screaming gulls light
on the first fisherman's rod.  Their role
is to frighten away the just.  Claws
of color brighten the promise of light
while the rest of a reluctant crew yawn and roll
into a last pact with sleep's flawed
delight.


iv

"Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches' wings;"

Try to be grateful for smallest favor
when day collides night wear perfumed oils,
dance in your private paradise.
When alone, bow to your love, savor
yesterday's wishbone, dig in the rich soil
of desire and make it last.  Summer flies
too soon across our storied landscape,
thunder-heavy clouds come to boil,
dropping sand and rain in equal lies.
Then drought, bowing to none, reshapes
our lives.


v

"Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;"

The land is flat far as I can see,
mesquite shoots wild where nothing will sprout,
tenacious as a mother holding tight
to her newborn.  An embryonic tree,
and all its cousins prove that out
here wild can survive, that roots are might.
So are we, somehow surviving anger,
lost children found, love winning over doubt,
of the dark cactus heart of spite.
But we see circling over us a flange
of white.


vi

"And áll trádes --their gear and tackle and trim."

The trade of the heart is innocence,
its gear and tackle manifest in blood,
talent's renewed with shovel and plow
and pick.  Only the heart can sense
when it's time to forget first flood,
recover song. When  you allow
yourself to forgive the exquisite kill
that tried to destroy your soul, clouded
tracks of the beast, memory of ebb and flow
of solace?  The wounds, never quite mortal--
some  heal.


vii

"All things counter, original, spare, strange."

Thanksgiving when her vision grew spare,
her spirit was wounded by fulsome neglect,
he had had enough.  He motored east--
she (blindly) cleaned house, left his indifferent stare
in the dustbin.  Now before her new prospect
fogged in the middle of her gilded feast
of solitude, she sips dandelion
wine.  She trades his clothes for a retrospect
of a man who could only offer his least,
who chases a treacherous, wild
release.


viii

"Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)"

Love is never without blemish or spot,
doubts rise in the face of change.
In the end--families are our allotted
treasure--tarnished, gilded, trotted
out for inspection on holidays.  Strange
how one wants to sift love with a slotted
spoon so only chunks without flavor
remain.  Heaven smiles on the haunted--
the quest for the grail when simply plotted
tales will suffice:  Tell all who will savor
you love.


ix

"With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim"

In the seasons of our lives winter breaks
us--like Persephone who tiptoes below
to visit Hades, we linger in the dark.
But darkness wears a mantle that takes
us through the fallow field over slow
despair.  We tear our nails on the bark
of destiny, but night will offer shelter.
His arms are sometimes tender, his arms grow
cruellest just before kind. At night,  the stark,
sharp wounds of our surrender alter
sore hearts.


x

"He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:"

Past death she walks up through shadows;
it is dark but she knows bright lies above
where her mother beckons.  And the sun
her brother radiates a word that flows
an unceasing fountain where prisms of love's
liquid fire sing her beauty's praise.  Done
are the months of mourning for talent that sleeps.
Done are the winter tasks forged on the stove
Hell lit to keep her from fainting.  She runs
toward the hand outstretched, eager to meet
her song.


xi

"Praise him." 

So it comes to this, my anchorites:
we preserve his perfect illusion,
from spring to winter our eternal reunion
from the imago despair we take bites
of the apple of life.  We feed the sun,
and he feeds us his burning
hope, Daedalus' feathers tipped in gold
flung to the Universe.  We sing
from shy leafing through fall's brass and brown,
we die in the Season of dreams of  our old
return.


(c) Karen Bingham Pape 2002


Karen Bingham Pape