I write sonnets to hold myself together.

Month: July, 2014


Context — …


The dead in deadline lines your mind, the grave
gargantuan and ghastly, grizzled ghoul
from filter fog advances, face concave
and cut with foolish failures, ridicule.
Approaching closer still, you see beyond
the caverns carved in look, and breath aborts–
you’re frozen, yearning, cannot correspond.
You see it’s you before you who reports.
“The grind,” your future past coughs out,
exhaustedly. Her crater cataracts
tell quietly of how she’s been devout
to work. Once prose, whose words her work redacts.
As minionlike to work you yourself veil,
life catalytic cortisol curtails.

Above Nevada

Context — Living in Arusha up in the hills of Mt Meru and writing about my absorption of that experience meant Young Me left a lot of written suggestions for Future Me. One of them was that money’s really not an end. I wrote this on a plane while headed back to grad school for recruiting season, a frustrating pony show of false camaraderie. Sonnet 30, penned 12/01/09.


At thirty thousand feet aloft, I swam
through dusty nighttime sky with darkened thought.
Two years of working told both who I am
and places where my dedication’s sought.
To ponder planning’s suitable tonight,
as summer jobs await upon return.
I maintain hope that aerial insight
will tell me where, when, and from whom to earn
the thirty thousand dollars I require
to be both frugal and, at once, provide
for family, aging, illness and retire
the milestones of life gleaned from outside.
Advice I read I wrote when my to-do
was blotted by the rains of Mt Meru.

Why, neighbors, are we not as a village?

Context — I canceled my Netflix subscription after cavorting with Karl the Fog one evening.


He walks with fog, which overtakes him to
then vaporize itself into the night.
They alternate their homonyms blue/blew
and drift past curtains lit with lazulite.
Outside, the street prefers its orange burn
to counteract the water in the mist,
as if lamp hues make pavement taciturn,
‘neath cathode rays layered into curtain schist.
The narrative the night had brought was old,
unaltered since an age Akkadian.
While windows each hold stories tubes unfold
in alpha glows that mock circadian.
Shut from black’s binding commonality,
each life diverged to screen’s reality.

Rediscover the Wild West

Context — I love the southwest and wrote this to invite classmates on a December road trip with me through northern Arizona and southern Utah. Sonnet 28, 11/22/09


A land of browns was painted scarlet where
thick dust and rock were worn by water’s course,
six thousand feet of strata shining, bare
the gorgeous gorge from Colorado’s force.
Beside the Canyon flood and sandstone fought
beneath the hooves of hunted Antelope
to shield themselves from surface sun onslaught,
a slotted labyrinth of orange and taupe.
Escaping nature, they carved home from cliff:
the Anasazi “House Under the Rock”
had just one thousand years of life, what if
more words were left to pick history’s lock?
December tenth through seventeenth, succumb
to desert solitaire. You ought to come.

Cretaceous caffeine

Context — an inspiringly heavy cup of coffee started some thinking about the point of origin for our organic and inorganic society.


I like my coffee’s closest counterpart
to be La Brea’s sand pits, dinosaurs
reduced as age’s pressures pound apart
the bodies’ bones to effervescent ore
that’s viscous as six dozen million years’
compression of organic creamy gook.
Yes, take the tar’s obsidian veneer,
the jet black gold tectonics overcooked
and skim the top for hydrocarbon vim,
the disembodied energetic eau,
distill to gasoline, then fuel our whim
with fire powering our robots’ glow.
Tyrannosaurus spirits feed machines
mechanical and live amphetamine.

Traffic is the end of the universe

Context — I used to get mild road rage. Then I realized there were only two consistent contributing factors: an endless number of unexpected things that drivers will do, and me. This is about controlling the second. 27th sonnet, written 11/18/09.


When those who meet should find themselves apart,
’tis likely that a traffic jam now springs
upon unwitting streets, metallic art
that stops man’s movement, with it anger brings
a melancholy haunting near and far,
a chemical released when all cars cease
that sucks synapses dry of dopamine,
ensuing blueness then doled out on lease
to overactive vocal chords, face green
with rage shot out the window, on the phone,
to vacuum spaces not inclined to hear
of timing troubles, his and his alone.
Though traffic’s cleared, frustration’s cloud yet steers.
It puzzles me, the depth of woe we feel
constructing problems for ourselves, none real.

Gilded homes of impracticality

Context — I’ve long had a ritual of sitting alone in the late evening and looking up at the sky or stars to unwind just before going to bed. While sitting on my roof this evening, surveying Haight Ashbury’s houses, I had a think.


With ground-lit darkness hiding all the proof
of stars, I pondered, why the gable roof?
It stood beside its replicas, as bouffe
would make of Painted Ladies, locals’ spoof.
It snows not where we are, so why align
the angles such that topmost floor’s confined?
Metropolis could use a more benign
and spacious warehouse structural design.
Yet all the places seen in neighborhood
use paneling, trim, girder, roof of wood
as if it through both fire and earthquake stood,
like local history’s misunderstood.
And yet, despite curmudgeon’s rationale,
the Haight’s quixotic pledge boosts my morale.

In a desert

Context — I used to be really bad at writing sonnets. I recently discovered this when looking through the earliest ones that I have record of. It took me until my eleventh (below) to say something at least mildly interesting, and even in this one (unedited) I’ve completely forgotten the right number of syllables and proper meter. Written 17 September 2009, and shared only so that you know what to do if your plane ever crash lands in the desert.


If in a desert you should find
yourself and six or seven friends
stranded with a sun unkind,
and want to avoid bitter ends
make sure you take a single mirror
as salvage from the accident,
bajillions candlepower clearer,
will be your signals, just like print
to passing search planes overhead
wanting to spy your folded ‘chute
and you curled on your topcoat beds
become survivors of repute.
Ah! Confidence, and expertise,
are both confused with too much ease.

Reverie the sole emolument

Context — everyone has dreams; some for themselves, some for their country, some for expression that can’t exist until they make it.


A boy on Santa’s now-warm lap invokes
with wonder hope he’ll be an astronaut.
Each tree-ward look another dream provokes
embodied soon in ship that Hasbro brought.
A girl freezes as gazelle, the voice
that pierced through static shortwave said there’d be
a socialistic ujamaa by choice,
Nyerere’d set both her and country free.
A man composed of naught but others’ praise
when struck by deafness found in blacks his light,
the Swan Lake of all lexical ballets,
said Shakespeare’s sonnet’s all he’d henceforth write.
For flourishing of self all ages yearn,
fulfillment ours, were somehow wages earned.

Come, learn wizardry, and manipulate The Matrix

Context — In Germany there exists nerd Hogwarts, the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe. As soon as I heard it existed I had to write this. Inspiration came from this Vine. Today’s comes out early so it can be enjoyed in Europe.


At age of one, imagination’s all.
Reality is hologram is real,
the newness swaddles. Everything enthralls.
Repeat exposure and so dies the zeal.
By twenty-eight, imagination’s sane.
The reins of adult life have lassoed tight,
as rationales from rationals arraign
the fantasies that once turned sheet to wight.
Unless, of course, you’re trained to turn the tide
with processing projection rigs on bikes:
Berliner passers-by can’t brush aside
the magic wand that’s movement-into-light.
Recover what adultness from you thieved
at School relearn Machines & Make-Believe.

Sonnet 17: Sonnet 0, Tardy

Context — little did I know how far I’d go when I shared this in October 2009. It started as my first sonnet, but was finalized as my seventeenth. Looking back, it’s funny how loose I was with meter and syllable count.


What starts as a trick may yet soon become habit,
since finding an outlet for arts is no cinch,
I’ll arrest your inbox, I’ll grab it and jab it,
and stuff it with letters without but a flinch.
Quotidian basis for writing these beasts,
should prove most sufficient to bellow the fires,
a Muse rising upwards within me, like yeast
that climbs without climbing, its aims always higher.
When with time I’ll stack words, acknowledging blessing
with meaning and mystery, equal in measure
but maintain the sonnet, change only its dressing
(the meter) but never its iambic pleasure.
Who knew that a draft that lingered half-complete
would become the hobby I’ll never delete?

Serendipity six

Context — I’ve had 5 random how-the-hell-are-you-here run-ins around the world. In a wide-reaching conversation initiated by my boss at the only bar in the Nairobi airport lounge, I ended up discovering that the girl sitting there knew me. She became number six. We mused about the evangelical dominance in Solomon Islands and coping strategies on life. She demonstrated one by cleverly ordering two beers at once upon getting the bartend’s scarce attention. May 2014


The serendipity was number six,
perhaps most powerful of the sextet.
Discovery historic paths were mixed
in interweaving stories, perplexed. Yet,
at once parts shared and parts distinct, as when
two souls collide in transit, work-inspired,
and discourse to the dominance of men
swings to, then fro to Christian island friars.
Indeed it seems improbable to share
the formative experience of youth
and in an airport bar two-fist lay bare
the times we’ve used to calibrate our truth.
You made me, at departure, somehow miss
your warmth of company and parting kiss.

The Cheesecake Factory

Context — Improbably, I attended business school. At the start of it I began writing sonnets; I’d email them to people after events that I thought would be fun to remember. This one went to a dozen. I slowed and eventually stopped with time as responses were sparse. Likely only makes sense for the GSBers out there. Written 10 October 2009, sonnet 16.


CAT, Global, LPF, finance
stacked back-to-back to end the week,
from Gladwell’s Blink to bribing rants,
our brains were full, our wills worn weak.
One part of our day remained free,
the end of much and start of more:
our evening dining, merrily
without participation scored.
The service sucked, the food was great,
we waited more than one forever
before Melis could join, we ate,
our banter hearty, witty, clever.
In three hours of our savoir faire
Alas! Not one ate cheesecake there.

Answer the day’s call

Context — my mother always used to be my backup alarm clock, bless her. Shouldering that for myself is hard enough, I don’t know how parents do it for two or four or twelve.


The monotone alarm beep ancient as
the recollections of Decembers in
which quilt at desert dawn was Alcatraz,
entrapping me sans boat or oar or fin.
In youth back then, I’d backup parachute–
the knowledge that, if will were failing, mom
would open door and like chimera boot
me out of bed toward kitchen with aplomb.
Alas, those days of secondary care
have faded, leaving me and discipline
alone with blanch-gray fog that oft ensnares
resolve, to favor jersey’s bliss on skin.
You sadden, Age! Responsibility
migrated waking’s mantle onto me.

Love Quest Colorado

Context — my best mate from college, to whom I owe far more than a single sonnet, realized when we were in China that his love was elsewhere. We were delighted that he left to live with her family in Colorado, earn room and board by helping out around the house, and get her back. Written 1 October 2009, sonnet 13.


John, once cardinally confused,
misplaced the place that California goes
and, leaving every friend bemused,
drove eastward, eastward, climbing rows
of mountains piling high: the Rockies,
to lend a hand in house and work,
where autumn falls and snow soon jockeys
for the ground. And in exchange, the perk
was warmth of home and hearth, the glow
of doing things by hand, creating
a permanence anew. Her beau
so close! Indeed, she tired of waiting.
Kira, patient, would take him back
and fill for both what both had lacked.

shackled to the untethered spelunker

Context — how I perceive the turmoil that starts and ends in the very first flash of morning consciousness.


A thought unwelcomed, grounding, stirs me from
cerebral puddle brimming with bizzare,
where straightened course adhering to a rhum
has altered angles, mangled meaning, marred
to point beyond confusion. Because when
consumed by vignette oddities, segues
are lost, no overlaps in circles Venn.
Your reinless self at sprint, you beg the sleigh
decelerate and resolutely halt
to let your reason interfere and fix
the patchwork nonsense figures call your fault.
Control is useless here. Blot what’s affixed
to inner consciousness–what boils your sleep–
as these are qualms that into daytime seep.

Island talk

Context — I never really belonged in business school. I found somebody else who’d also spent time on Pacific islands and we reflected together over a meal. It was formative for both of us. He was considering a book on the experience at the time. Sonnet #41, written May 3, 2010.
By blankets blue reflecting daylight haze
both stuck in place defined by what it’s not,
they tanned their hides and brains into malaise
atop forgotten atoll ocean dot.
In prior lives they’d made all kinds of New,
brought music, dance and deepened thought to air,
yet on these islands heads bent straight askew,
creatively confused when talked the pair.
With happenstance alone, show the excuse,
a mental heritage each shared with word,
engendered authors’ thoughts of written truce,
their works raised twice, with each man’s circles heard.
Compendia of thoughts await to give
our battered island voices chance to live.

Hennessey and fear of heights doth neighbors make

Context — Saturday afternoon I received a text asking if I wanted to go to Santa Rosa to boulder. Yes, obviously. We instead lunched with a panorama view of SF, went to a bouldering gym in Potrero, and somehow got invited in to take shots of Hennessey at a 3-year old’s birthday party. It warrants picture proof.

photo 3


Improbability was key. She texts
to say we’re headed up to where wine’s made
and that in twenty minutes she’ll collect
my body to climb rock without belay.
Upon my seat in car, the plan becomes
tectonic in predictability
with items beyond lunch earning but mum
and audible to Thai soliloquy.
So noodles on Twin Peaks we had and then
by arbitrary vote drove to some walls
where slipping was okay, where closest zen
was recognizing when it’s time to fall.
Graffiti tour in Mission jacked by boss
who forced a salvo dozen-strong of sauce.

Regional introduction for Joe

Context — The SF office at my day job lost its lead partner to an organization in Berkeley, and we were asked to write an introductory message for the incoming lead, Joe, about what made SF unique. Wrote November 8, 2012


Well, okay, fine, we lost a partner, but
he’s squishy on the inside. Give him space
to rediscover Birkenstock wingnuts
that congregate in Berkeley. Any case,
dear Joe, we have delights for you in store:
a city filled with oddities of dress,
some hills for views, good food, Pacific shore,
the Giants down the street (post-work recess).
Though spurned by Bruce, who left for eastern land,
our pyramid remains a diamond shape,
we’re self-sufficient: bring us coffee and
we’ll follow faithfully, our mouths agape.
All Dalberg Global runs from SF’s pier,
yet none’s aware that we’re the puppeteer.

Riverine ontology

Context — there is always a next level.


You’re born. You learn to float. You drift along,
swept slowly, quickly, as the currents move.
Inhabiting the surface is that throng
without mobility were flows removed.
A smaller group has muscles that react
to periodic jetsam scudding by,
collecting shiny objects to transact
aware of water ‘pon which they rely.
The smallest group all perch upon pontoons,
they’ve hoisted selves from river of events.
Though recognizing water, they’re immune
to sorrows spawned by seeking its contents.
Perhaps some day I’ll graduate to know
I am the boat, and bridge, and water flow.

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