Fourteen³ - December 2016


Sonnet CLXXXIII - On Curiosity
8th December 2016

The Martian sky was beautiful tonight,
The perfect gift to mark this special day:
A year since I set out from landing site
On brave new world, to boldly lead the way.

I’ve done my work, today, with extra care,
But now at rising of the Phobos moon,
I pause to watch and fill the silent air,
By singing to myself a birthday tune.

I’m far away from Earth, and all alone,
But shed no empathetic tears for me,
For only those who go from what they’ve known,
Can hope to sate their curiosity.

So do not pity me, alone on Mars,
I’m far from home, but dream along the stars.

Sonnet CLXXXIV - On The Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby
14th December 2016

A year ago, I knew I didn’t know
A thousand things which I would come to learn,
But no one said how fast I’d have to grow,
How totally my life would overturn.

I knew that there’d be times when it was tough,
And how important marriage vows would be,
But no one said, when all was not enough,
How much I’d lean on her, and she on me.

I knew that love for him would fill my heart,
That greater love than this is hard to find,
But no one said that it’s a thing apart:
It’s not just more, it’s of a different kind.

Perhaps they did, but ‘til I lived this year,
I did not have the state of mind to hear.

Sonnet CLXXXV - On Headlines; or 2016
22nd December 2016

Destruction blazes on for seven days,
And Nero from his country pad returns.
The people’s lives are turned to ash; he plays
The fiddle as the ancient city burns.

I knew that things would happen on the news,
That there would be much more to write about,
Than me, my life, my family and my views,
But chose to leave those civic subjects out.

So with each monthly deadline’s fast approach
I always silenced my satiric voice,
As every headline broke felt the reproach,
Of history for my unworthy choice.

So closed within my high, secluded spire,
I wrote my sonnets as the world caught fire.

Sonnet CLXXXVI - On Privilege
25th December 2016

When dinosaurs of empire ruled the Earth,
They spread their power far and staked their claim,
So those who were like them, in spite of worth,
Would gain unearned advantage in the game.

The world they built became normality,
Unfairness posing as the natural law,
And made invisible to such as me,
Who benefit from all that came before.

But when it’s hard for me in things I do,
Though I am male, middle-class and white,
I’ll not begrudge success of people who
To get to where I started had to fight.

I’ll do my best to not perpetuate
A system where one’s birth defines one’s state.

Sonnet CLXXXVII - On Glaciation
26th December 2016

A mountaintop, a drift of fallen of snow,
Compressed until the light cannot escape,
Except the blues, which lends the stately flow
A tint of sadness to its mighty shape.

It carves across the land and leaves a trough,
To witness where it passed eternally,
And terminates in where the front falls off,
And, mountainous, drifts out into the sea.

The drifts of time are falling, day by day,
And push the present back into the past
What marks will show that I once passed this way,
When all is done, will what is done outlast?

My life drifts off, to seas of yesteryear,
And into memory, to disappear.

Sonnet CLXXXVIII - On Inherited Truth
26th December 2016

First, halve your scone, which may be plain or fruit,
Then optionally butter, as you deem,
Then spread your jam, as thickly as will suit,
And lastly dollop on the clotted cream.

Remember: jam then cream, not cream then jam,
And never let yourself be led astray,
If sure of nothing else, of this I am,
So pay no mind to what your Mum might say.

For you can take the kindness from her heart,
And take her love, her intellect and looks,
Be sure to take her singing and her art,
And take her taste and appetite for books.

But in regards to scone assembly,
My son, in this, take all your lead from me.

Sonnet CLXXXIX - On Life’s Unfairness
29th December 2016

Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies - God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

- Kurt Vonnegut, ‘God Bless You, Mr Rosewater’

You gave a sigh and said that life’s not fair,
To justify some casual cruelty done,
As if your own indifference to despair,
Is just the way the game of life is run.

Because you couldn’t see how you could ease
Another’s pain, you chose to let it grow,
Gave many clever rationalities
That that’s just how things are. But this I know:

The Earth is round, with land and sea and coast,
It’s sometimes cold, and other times it’s hot,
You’ve got around one hundred years, at most,
Upon this crowded world, then that’s your lot,

And there is just one rule that I can find:
You must be kind, you always must be kind.

Sonnet CXC - On The Ninevites’ Repentance
29th December 2016

Oh God, oh God, we cannot understand,
This foreign prophet came to give your word,
He preached your anger to our Godless land,
And even in our ignorance, we heard.

If we will dress ourselves in sinners’ sacks,
Will you allay the anger that we’re due;
Could you absolve us if we turn our backs,
On all the things which turned our backs to you?

Like sun on ice-locked winter when it ends,
Can melt the bitter hardness of the frost,
So from the heights a living stream descends,
Returning life to fields where it was lost

Will grace abounding flow from heaven thus?
Our God, our God, you have forgiven us.

Sonnet CXCI - On Job
30th December 2016

My God, my God, you have confounded me,
I asked why my calamity befell,
I do not understand why it should be
That I should suffer having served so well.

I have not seen the cornerstone of Earth,
I have not seen the storehouses of snow,
I have not seen where darkness has its berth,
I do not see, or understand, or know.

Though I have faith in your amazing grace,
I find that in the blackness of my grief,
I cannot see the kindness of your face,
But I believe, so help my unbelief.

Can all of this have been as you have planned?
My God, my God, I do not understand.

Sonnet CXCII - On Old Wounds, A Year Having Passed
30th December 2016

I still remember, when the light’s just so,
And when the rain falls softly as it did,
As clear as yesterday, a year ago,
The way the world from underneath me slid.

There is an aching still around the scars
Though numbness has replaced the needle-pain,
But I’m still shy of motorbikes and cars,
And will not if I need not to again.

It might be easier to contemplate
Returning to the driver’s seat once more,
If I did not quite so robustly hate,
All that they are and all that they stand for.

And pardon the pretension, but I’ve heard,
For poets, public transport is preferred.

Sonnet CXCIII - On Learning
31st December 2016

I learned to sit, to crawl and then to walk,
I learned to eat, and then I learned to cook,
I learned how best to listen and to speak,
I learned to read and how to write a book;

I learned to keep my ground when I’ve been shoved,
I learned how to be firm and to be kind,
I learned to love and let myself be loved,
I’m learning how to shape a learning mind;

I learned that conversation is the key,
I learned it’s good that certainty can turn,
I learned that we can differ peacefully,
I learned that there are things I need not learn:

I learned the greatest thing that you can know
Is how to learn and let your learning grow.

Sonnet CXCIV - On A Slim Volume Of Sonnets
31st December 2016

Three sonnets more and then it is complete,
A fourteenmonth since it was all begun,
I did not think, when starting out, I’d meet
Each deadline by the time each month was done.

I wrote of sacred things and things profane,
I wrote of every aspect of my life,
I wrote of things I might not write again,
I wrote my parents, siblings, son and wife.

And then, a simple gift on Christmas day,
A book of verse in secrecy composed,
In metric feet and rhyming interplay,
She left her heart and mind and soul exposed.

Those fourteen sonnets which she wrote for me
Were made the highest form of poetry.

Sonnet CXCV - On Temporality
31st December 2016

A burst of crimson fire splits the night,
A scar of sparkles on the New Year’s sky
A momentary dazzling of light,
Which leaves an afterimage in my eye.

A moment burning brightly in the dark,
The year ahead, with all its hopes and fears,
Is just a moment, just a fading spark,
It’s only one of fourteen billion years,

And all that is to come, and all that’s past,
Are just the fading glints of what might be;
Our lives are just a moment’s light that’s cast,
Upon the darkness of infinity.

But as this moment shared is your’s and mine,
Let’s raise a glass, and sing of Auld Lang Syne.

Sonnet CXCVI - On Writing Poetry
31st December 2016

When I was young, I planned out my career,
To join the bar and plead for equity,
Before I took another path for fear,
Of how immensely boring law can be.

Since then I’ve followed many fruitless leads,
And some were hateful, others were…all right,
I’ve built a list of skills that no one needs,
But all that makes me happy is to write.

Like Jaffa Cakes are biscuits and not cakes,
This ending’s not an ending but a start,
So I shall leave behind the past’s mistakes,
And for a time, I’ll play the poet’s part.

So now I say, without a second’s pause,
Speak not to me of statutes or of laws.