Fourteen³ - April 2016


Sonnet LXXI - On Being Pedantic About Food
13th April 2016

You love to sing that old pedantic song:
‘Tomatoes are a fruit’ and, though not wrong,

Botanically, they’re berries and it’s true
That cucumbers and aubergines are too.

But raspberries and strawberries are not:
For they are aggregates, while apricot

And almond, peach and coffee all are known
As drupes - a fruit of flesh surrounding stone.

Feel free to take your stand and be declared
The expert, but I hope you came prepared.

The fact is no one cares about the facts:
Our terms for food aren’t concrete, they are lax.

(And keep in mind, while fixing your mistakes
That Jaffa Cakes are biscuits, they’re not cakes!)

Sonnet LXXII - On Regression Towards The Mean
13th April 2016

I know my irritation is absurd,
And though I do not need the final word,

I cannot stop myself from bickering,
And keeping old frustrations flickering.

But show me you respect my point of view
And I will try to do the same for you.

For even in the least important things
May truth be found; the incidental brings

A deeper truth, a deeper empathy:
Perhaps, another opportunity

To squash the sibling squabbling and leave
Past buried in the past, and so perceive

Beyond the boys we were when we began:
To know the man you are now you’re a man.

Sonnet LXXIII - On Reflection
21st April 2016

Who is this stranger I’ve been calling me?
He’s not the same as other people see.

For all the things I’ve been, and done and said,
Belie the man I am inside my head.

The light, the dark, the shades which lie between:
For, every kindness felt not shown is mean;

And toughened shell conceals soft hurt and shame;
And love not shared is hardly worth the name;

And foolish thoughts unspoken may seem wise.
Yes, everything I do is my disguise:

This outward self I built from fear and doubt,
It stops my inner self from leaking out.

So who I think I am remains unshown;
Who others see, remains to me unknown.

Sonnet LXXIV - On Sitting For A Portrait
24th April 2016

At ten years old, his talent does not rest
In graphite nib upon a sketchbook pressed,

And so while I in silent stillness sit,
I fear to know what he will make of it.

But if by infant tongue the Lord is praised,
Might infant art be into greatness raised?

Perhaps his hand will in my visage find
The truth which lies within my soul and mind!

“From looking at the beard and eyelash curl,
It looks just like a man dressed as a girl

Who’s wearing, like, a Lucha Libre mask,”
Was his appraisal, when he’d done the task.

I said, “It’s nice to know how you see me.”
“I think that’s how we all see you,” said he.

Sonnet LXXV - On Human Reproduction
25th April 2016

A single cell divides, divides, divides,
Until it’s big enough to touch the sides

And tiny chains of acid somehow know,
The shapes they should be taking as they grow.

They knit together every human part:
Two hands, two feet, a face, a brain, a heart.

And where the belly button soon will be,
A tube connects so, parasitically,

They might, without a single bite, still feed,
Without a breath, take every breath they need.

And when they’re grown, their wait for birth is done,
They burst into the world: new life begun.

But there’s no way that this strange story’s right.
It’s likelier they’re brought by stork, by night.

Sonnet LXXVI - On Application Forms
26th April 2016

This application form’s for humans right?
So was it made for vengeance or for spite?

For, from the first down to the bottom line,
You mangled every part of its design.

Each box is drawn precisely just too small,
(Except for yes/no checkboxes, which sprawl)

But, God forbid that they should be resized,
Disrupting all this folly you’ve devised:

You locked it down, so I might only fill
It out in line with your capricious will.

And so, the whole endeavour must be viewed,
As some sadistic test of aptitude.

How can it be you thought it good enough,
When filling in my name is so damn tough?

Sonnet LXXVII - On An Official Visit
27th April 2016

The man from the department comes today
To see that things are being done his way.

To see that we’re all singing to his song,
And tell us all the notes we’re getting wrong.

His weapons are a checklist and a pen,
He fills it out methodically, and then

He’ll analyse the data digitally,
Because the only value there can be

Is in what fits within a spreadsheet cell,
But anyone with half a brain knows well

That all the staff are seeking to be seen,
As part of a precision tooled machine.

I guess that bureaucrats need stuff to do,
But just by looking they corrupt the view.

Sonnet LXXVIII - On The Road Commonly Travelled
27th April 2016

I choose my road, and follow where it lies,
Beneath a roof of dark, forbidding skies,

Which turn the hopeful brightness of the day,
To murky mess of dreary black and grey.

But I can see that, not too far from here,
There is a different sky that’s bright and clear.

Whatever storm is raging overhead,
I walk, unbowed, the path that’s mine to tread.

For if there is a cloudless sky to see,
That’s where I set my sight and strive to be;

But even if there’s not a hint of blue,
I do my best to find another view:

No darkness shall dictate to me my course,
But light shall lead me on to find its source.

Sonnet LXXIX - On Wisdom
28th April 2016

I have a wisdom tooth that’s cutting through,
But have no wisdom for what I should do.

It is a constant, nagging background pain,
Which worms up through my head to eat my brain.

I cannot sleep, my nerves are overwrought,
It is the very death of cogent thought.

So will this painful desperation press
Me into hasty acts of foolishness?

For though these teeth are born of only age,
Advancing years alone make not the sage.

A wisdom tooth, so let my wisdom be
The consolation of philosophy:

When suffering is real and hope is sparse,
This too shall pass, this too shall always pass.

Sonnet LXXX - On Kindness
28th April 2016

CONTENT WARNING: Sonnet LXXX is about a pet dying. If this is a subject which is difficult for you, please skip to Sonnet LXXXI which is about one of the particular ways my brain doesn’t work properly.

Beside the road, you found an injured cat,
And all at once, your day was only that.

You drove directly to a vet, although
All they could do was let his owner know.

But he knew comfort in his final breath,
You took from him a cold and lonely death.

I heard about it later, as you cried,
As you remembered and identified

With all the pain and fear he must have felt,
And for a stranger’s pet, let your heart melt.

And once again, I cannot help but be
Astonished by your depths of empathy,

And by the deep compassion that you showed,
To care for him you found beside the road.

Sonnet LXXXI - On Dyslexia
30th April 2016

A supermarket shelf, the food arrayed:
Some chicken in jalfrezi marinade,

I take it up, and find some bhaji too,
Add naan and dal, then join the checkout queue.

And only when I’m just about to pay,
I see the writing in the proper way:

I’d swear it said ‘jalfrezi’ in the space
Where now ‘fajita’s written in its place.

My stupid brain, which somehow cannot see
The written word keep its consistency.

It’s not that I can see them move around,
But, looking twice, a difference may be found;

How can I fix the errors that I make,
When how I see is part of my mistake?

Sonnet LXXXII - On Anger
30th April 2016

A little thing: a little late to bed,
A little word I heard that someone said,

A little task I should have done before,
It’s just a little thing, then two, then more,

A little powder keg, a little spark:
A little question answered with a bark,

A little thing that’s in my way gets kicked,
A little row which needn’t now gets picked.

A little thunder roars then fades away
A little man is left in disarray.

I don’t know whence it comes, or why it grows,
Or how to stop the doors of reason close,

But I must find what sets this monster free,
And mind my mind ‘til it submits to me.

Sonnet LXXXIII - On Budget Setting
30th April 2016

The governors’ committee all were met
To talk about the budget we should set:

Interrogate, consider and discuss,
This most momentous task which falls to us.

The rows and columns showed the pounds and pence,
And totted up to not a jot of sense.

I looked to see more clearly but saw less.
It must be questioned with incisiveness,

But could be Greek, for all it means to me.
(I note, at least in part, it seems to be!)

I dutifully read the whole thing through
But with my skills elsewhere what can I do?

I just assume that greater minds than mine,
Have written it and checked it, and it’s fine.

Sonnet LXXXIV - On Dot And Dash
30th April 2016

The pitter-patter sound of tiny feet,
When Dot and Dash are searching for a treat.

Excited, twitching noses sniff the air,
They scamper off, exploring everywhere,

And then they pause to wash their hands and face,
Or nap within a cosy, hidden place.

Two tiny faces always want to know,
If we are there, and when we come and go.

But what goes through their little, ratty brains?
And do they have a theory which explains

The noises that we make, the things we do,
And why their cage is sometimes fresh and new?

And though they live in the same world as me
I wonder how they see things differently.

(NB - Dot and Dash are the names of my pet rats, in case that wasn’t clear. If you want to depersonalise this poem so it can be about your rats too, swap out ‘When two pet rats’ for ‘When Dot and Dash’ in line two!)