Sonnets

I write sonnets to hold myself together.

Tag: community

San Francisco, and probably where you live

Context — Sometimes in the evenings I climb out my window to stand on the roof and survey neighbors’ own faraway glow.

 

I climb through window, soles on roof, erect
and survey night’s illuminations there.
I count the homes that choose to resurrect
the day with backlit LCDs, aware
of hundred ways they might be learning in
their catatonic viewing of a show
or documentary. Still, scene’s akin
to Huxley’s hypnopaedic writ tarot.
They’ve moved here from their far-off place of birth
for jobs and friends of equal intellect,
here clustered ’cause they’ve heard it’s here they’re worth
more dollars. Yet, they’re dense in disconnect,
the automatic neighbor friendship’s farce
as vocal cord-hummed words are ever sparse.

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Us, if known nothingness

Context — If sunset ended the universe, how might we fill today?

 

With neither rapture nor apocalypse,
tomorrow simply ceased to hither come:
we knew precisely twelve o’clock eclipsed
our world back to interstellar mum.
Work stopped without a future left to serve.
In instants, life lost sense of scarcity.
All peoples said their peace, left naught reserved.
Folks cleansed themselves with prayer, errs set free.
Most lacking time to travel out to where
their loved ones dwelled in distant places, they
sought solace from their neighbors, offered care
of human warmth they’d let days’ grind decay.
It took catastrophe to strip facade
so each treats each as delegate of god.

Community can be felt silently

Context — It is too easy to judge people who cannot interact with us in the way we are accustomed to being interacted with.

 

I’ve four years stretched across the spheroid earth,
my gravity one year quite upside-down
from where my feet had laid in prior’s berth
of too-hot foam in country shantytown.
My days dilate proportionate to grasp
of conversations flung at me. When tongues
unknown share thoughts, I’d naught on which to clasp,
and so deflate my eager, well-primed lungs.
Abroad, as here, one’s known by mask he takes,
gregarious, reserved, or place betwixt,
while anonymity emasculates
the man who under label is affixed.
May all encountering the foreign know
beneath their silence burns familiar glow.

Splintering herds

Context — Changing natural patterns disequilibrates.

 

Were prides to fall apart and cubs all stood
alone, their youth would bear calamity.
Were pods to cease existing, dolphins would
be mavericks drifting, stripped of amity.
Were flying V’s transformed to flying slash
with mutiny of members, looking out
for selves, they’d leave a cloudy balderdash
of jet streams vying alternating routes.
Were penguin, fat with blubber, waddle from
the belly warmth of strangers, arctic snow
would pierce his hide until his frame succumbed
to reaper’s natural adagio.
When man departs who reared him and withdraws,
we toast his gutsiness and give applause.

Only the rich can afford not to own cars

Context — I’m thankful that this is not the story of the rest of America.

 

With tea light lit beside my bedside glass,
I stay awake to browse the infinite
shown property on Zillow, upper class
have only wallets not too thin. Sin writ
against, it seems, old dreams American,
where few years’ earnings at the going rate
suffice for one downpayment, shared with kin
on place to quick become a home estate.
Our Bay has taken off to an extreme
with Gini inequality from tech
the prices charged for housing stomp the dream
of ownership, unless you’re an exec.
I love the growth their wealth to us has brung
but hate the housing noose on which we’re hung.

An Ode: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2K14

Context — Thanks to [Warren] Hellmann’s mayonnaise, San Francisco has a 3-day, 7-stage free bluegrass festival every year. Thanks to serendipity, I ran across a college friend in the grocery eight months ago who was kind enough to invite me into her and her friends’ tradition to set up by the Banjo Stage.

A dawn patrol, or Alpine Crew, it’s called
woke early, packed the tarps and blankets, ice
aplenty in the cooler, then installed
them in parquet near banjo paradise.
The sun stayed ‘low the treeline ’till round ten,
burritos gorged and frisbees fled the scene,
retired as we welcomed friend and kin
to watch Time Jumpers, Dave Rawlings Machine
and Saint Paul & The Broken Bones put on
a show that Freddy Mercury’d be keen
to stage, its verve exploding vocal bombs
that harmed none’s exoskeleton sunscreen.
Tradition opened thanks to new comrades:
a better Saturday could not be had.

Shard of the reverberating urban story

Context — rural America brain drain.

 

With brain too large to fit her birth’s small town,
her valediction speech marked final part
with Hillsboro, to college from godown
to fill her head while trickled dry her heart.
For four flash years she changed taxonomy:
community from family tree to fern,
its leaves abuzz. What home lacked spawned from glee
at having people everywhere she turned.
Post-second graduation, seasons fell–
a swelling freeze that isolated leaves
in ice. Aloneness housing’s walls impelled,
adulthood youth’s community upheaved.
Her loved ones parted once for brain, and twice
when friends for jobs their tethers sacrificed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ephemeral scent of the neighborhood barbeque

Context — the feeling of walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood in summer and realizing that you’re caught in the surface tension, stuck above submergence in the communal warmth.

 

The skies are blue. The air is fresh. The wind
relays a grill of sausage, summer’s feast.
Inhaled from beyond the fence that, tinned
the in from out relentlessly there creased.
You’re neighbor fleeting to the revelry
of jolly masses, yearning weekend’s joys,
yet separated by man’s beveled scree
from smile and quip and backslap it employs.
You grin for your adjacency to cheer
and tighten vertebrae to walk with pride,
convincing passers-by with your veneer
that all is right atop and right inside.
Yet ticker tape ‘tween ears leaves void abyss:
aloneness permeates all outward bliss.

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