Commentary and Philosophy Poetry posted May 18, 2018


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A Wreath of Sicilian Sonnets - see note

Midnight Echoes

by tfawcus

1.
Mirages tempt the heated mind to stray,
and lose its focus on the vital aim,
which is amassing toys with which to play;
this life has rules, and we must know the game.
There is no time to linger and delay,
for if we're left behind, there's only shame.
There's always work enough to fill the day -
and night as well. For slaves, they're just the same.

At length the world will raise a marble slab
declaring Everyman has given all
in vain pursuits, for which his life was sold;
his days were dun and draped with shades of drab.
He never heard the distant echo call,
in dreamfault shimmerings, on paths of gold.

2.
In dreamfault shimmerings, on paths of gold,
the sun threw gems with carelessness and glee
as seals disported, dived and barrel-rolled,
just for the joy they felt in being free.
They leapt with grace, completely uncontrolled,
both masters of themselves and of the sea.
Oh, would that we mere mortals were so bold
and profligate, in life's brief spending spree.

But we are apt to cut the bloom of youth,
assuming that, in time, it grows again,
then seasons pass, and winter brings its grey.
Next spring's not ours to own. We feel the ruth.
The days are gone, and we regret in vain,
declaiming former thoughts, a dried bouquet.

3.
Declaiming former thoughts, a dried bouquet
was all the old man had, to chance his heart.
Abandoning the straightened necktie way,
he chose a winding path and made a start,
redeeming wasted years now slipped away;
a new terrain for him, and off the chart.
Although it fired his mind, to his dismay,
he felt he was too old to play the part,

or so he thought. Yet times, he found, were changing.
The strictures of the past had now been eased
and there were others like himself who'd sold
themselves for transitory gains, exchanging
a life of many masks for one that pleased,
not living as they did in days of old.

4.
Not living as they did in days of old
involved some freedoms not enjoyed before.
One midweek autumn day, when sea mists rolled
and swirled with looming shapes, he walked the shore
and spied a figure where the rocks enfold
a tidal pool. Her skin of speckled hoar
lay on the sand, and he could scarce withhold
his gaze from her, the nakedness she wore

with innocence, not knowing she was seen.
With stealth he crept, and stole the selkie's skin.
He held her fast. She could not get away.
Her fate was sealed, and she could only keen
with seaborne sorrow that she held within,
but viewed in anguish at the close of day.

5.
But, viewed in anguish at the close of day,
the surf still haunted her, with salt suffused.
The man well knew her loveliness was fey
but while he held her skin, she was subdued
and could not go to sea, obliged to stay.
He tried, with gifts of pearls, to lift her mood
but he could never earn her love that way,
and, more and more, he felt disquietude.

At length, he saw how grievously he erred;
a captive once himself but now set free,
he knew the only way she'd be consoled
would be if they in freedom jointly shared.
Her skin returned, he led her out to sea,
gestalt in mind, revived, as tales once told.

6.
Gestalt in mind, revived, (as tales once told),
he swam among the seals and, through their lore
learnt how to use the freedoms they extolled
in silver songs. Their moonlight echoes soar
above the granite outcrops, grim and cold,
as rugged headlands importune the shore
and sea meets land, becoming sharply shoaled
where narrow straits uplift a tidal bore.

Uplifting as their song, this standing wave
is like the Scottish unicorn, upreared;
a symbol on their coat of arms today.
It's chained (by love) but still it stands to save,
for when unleashed, these unicorns are feared.
How strong our wish to keep them from decay.

7.
How strong our wish to keep them from decay,
these legends that define humanity.
Our minstrels weave the magic of the lay,
with yarns that last into eternity,
though those who give them life must pass away.
The patterns we absorb in infancy
can hold us to ourselves, throughout the day,
in counterpoint against reality.

When bankrupt by the spinning of the wheel,
flung from the central axis of our course,
the time has come to question what we're told;
we ought to temper what we see as real.
At times, we lose our grip and need to source
the fading memories we choose to hold.

8.
The fading memories we choose to hold
are lost, unless we pause to make them known.
In days to come, such stories should be told
to help our future generations own
their rightful worth, the coinage of gold
that gives them context when they feel alone.
So cultivate and nurture tales of old,
and then our seed will thrive, become well grown

with strength to bear the burden of our cares,
hilst agonising in Gethsemane
when their turn comes to face a world that brings
them bittersweet, like Aphrodite's tears
that, as they fell, became anemones,
ephemeral as life's brief, carefree spring.

9.
Ephemeral as life's brief, carefree spring,
migrating birds return to the same place.
Lithe swallows dart and swoop while twittering
with tales of winter sun in southern Thrace
where, like the mud of nests, foul deeds still cling,
and myrtles mark the ancient resting place
of Polydorus, murdered by the king;
their branches spouting blood, for that disgrace.

Like men who tell fine tales when they return,
these birds will fill their nests with murmuring
as fledglings grow, until at last it's time
for them to leave. Their feathers grown, they learn,
with due encouragement, and then take wing,
careening through the air in heady climb.

10.
Careening through the air in heady climb,
to gain euphoric heights before they stall
and dive and roll, with airborne stunts sublime,
so like the seals, ecstatic in free fall,
for joy of being free in space and time,
a brief eternity that touches all
who dare to put their lives upon the line
with thrilling aerobatics, to enthral.

But in these latter days, a slower pace
allows me to examine my life's hoard,
reflecting on those times that made me shake,
enjoying what I've gained; a sense of place,
where I may wake old dreams, and climb aboard
haphazard, daring flights that man can take.

11.
Haphazard, daring flights that man can take
are real in youth, but fade to mandrake dreams;
hypnotic figurines that loom, opaque,
and haunt the toss and turn of sleep with screams.
The restlessness of age cannot unmake
those vivid blood-filled scenes where death still gleams
among the selkie skulls. They make men quake
with fear and salted nightmare sweat, in streams

of sodden guilt, as they recall the slaughter;
for in our quest for truth, we murder myth
with tangled weeds of words when sea bells ring,
forgetting how we loved the seal king's daughter,
a faerie of the waves, in ages sith,
on fragile wings of hope, meandering.

12.
On fragile wings of hope, meandering,
the butterflies will spend their precious day
in search of nectar, and philandering
with flow'rs, whose heady fragrances delay,
engaging them in pleasures, pandering
to honeyed tastes, to tempt them from the way.
Their time like ours is short, and they must wring
the utmost worth from nature's brief ballet.

Should we not, too, enhance the passing hour
in dalliance, enjoying Mardi Gras
before the fast of Lent? Where is the crime
in savouring the sweetness of the bower,
before our flight to seek the evening star,
erratic, as we search for heights sublime?

13.
Erratic, as we search for heights sublime,
upon the slopes of Helicon, we glean
fresh secrets wrested from the depths of time,
with inspiration from the Hippocrene,
a crystal spring, the poet's paradigm,
where Pegasus, the sea god's son was seen.
In days when Grecian gods were in their prime,
the wingèd horse's hoof was struck on green,

to quench the Muses' thirst. Can horses fly,
or is there, in the seal, a selkie form?
The sceptics hold to truth; their heads will shake.
Secure in how and where but weak on why,
they thrust their facts at at us, invading swarms
so close at hand, if only we would wake.

14.
So close at hand, if only we would wake,
to realise the things we yearn to know,
and yet, disturbed by withered dreams, we rake
through all the lies we knew, and find they blow
around in autumn winds that howl and shake
our certainties, deluded whims, and crow
now settles on the branch that truths forsake,
and as we hear its caws, misgivings grow.

It's bonfire night and time to burn the guy,
and time to burn the witch and heretic,
defending truth, lest it be led astray.
We all have different truths to sell and buy -
but when you buy, beware. Now take your pick;
mirages tempt the heated mind to stray.

15.
Mirages tempt the heated mind to stray
In dreamfault shimmerings, on paths of gold,
Declaiming former thoughts, a dried bouquet,
Not living as they did in days of old,
Inhaled in anguish at the close of day,
Gestalt in thought, revived from tales once told.
How strong our wish to keep them from decay,
The fading memories we choose to hold;

Ephemeral as life's brief, carefree spring
Careening through the air in heady climb,
Haphazard, daring flights that man can take
On fragile wings of hope, meandering,
Erratic, as we search for heights sublime;
So close at hand, if only we would wake.


Rhyming Poem contest entry

Recognized


A Wreath of Sonnets is a connected sequence of fifteen poems. The form was invented by the Slovene Romantic poet France Preseren in 1833. It varies the traditional Heroic Crown of Sonnets by making the final sonnet acrostic. In this case, I have chosen to form the acrostic from the title, Moonlight Echoes.

The first 13 sonnets are linked by repeating the last line of each as the first line of the next. The 14th one closes with the first line of the first sonnet and the 15th sonnet is made up of the first lines of the preceding 14 sonnets.

The Sicilian Sonnet is the earliest known sonnet form, forerunner to the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet. It first appeared in the early 13th century at the Sicilian court of Frederick II, the King of Sicily. The Petrarchan sonnet came about a hundred years later, in the early 14th century and altered the rhyme scheme of the octet from abababab to abbaabba. Both have some freedom of choice in the rhyme scheme of the sestet. I have chosen cdecde for this sequence.

Glossary:
Dun: a dull brown colour
Dreamfault: an invented portmanteau word, aiming to capture the idea of dreams being difficult to recapture in their entirety
Ruth: regret
Stricture: restriction
Hoar: whitish grey, as in hoar frost
Selkie: a mythical creature that resembles a seal in the water but assumes human form on land. Stories frequently revolve around female selkies being coerced into relationships with humans by someone stealing and hiding their sealskin, often not regaining the skin until years later upon which they commonly return to the sea, forsaking their human family.
Gestalt: an organized whole that is seen as more than the sum of its parts.
Polydorus: King Priam sent his youngest son, Polydorus, to Thrace, under the protection of King Polymester, in case Troy fell. When it did, Polymester threw him into the sea instead and stole all the gold that Priam had endowed him with.
The Anemone or windflower was said to have arisen from Aphrodite's tears as she mourned the death of Adonis.
Sith: an archaic variation of 'since', derived from the Old English 'siththa'.

The image, Midnight Echo, is reproduced under copyright by permission of the talented artist and poet, Sue Vincent.
See https://scvincent.com/painting/ for further examples of her work.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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