The Mayport Sonnets (1990-1991)
Dear friend, the sonnet seemed to be the best of forms
To test and gauge the status of our friendship born
Those years ago, amid the various interludes of summer’s nights;
Failure to give life to such a sweet creation would be quite
Disarming, and alarming, and a waste of all those precious
Talents, borrowed from the Muse of song and word and deed;
And if by chance our meeting and our wanting were unfounded,
We owe it to ourselves to search and find the function of that need.
Dear friend, though each has walked his separate path
To glory and to honor, let not the fleeting summer’s wrath
Blot out the blessings of the Sun to feed and nourish all we gained
And earned through work and play and love and joy and pain.
If reading sonnets opens up your vision,
Send me one to reveal your heart’s position
You try to steer me, gently, on a course
avoiding you, then call my love a butterfly’s,
point it to something new. “Take your deep desires
elsewhere” is the song you sing for me.
“Let’s always hold fond memories of the
love that used to be.” Well, I’ve been around,
I know this town, I hear all that you say.
You’d rather not get serious, just be
best friends at play. But my soul’s a hungry
hunter that has locked in on its prey. He will
track it, like the lion, in a very patient way.
And just when you least expect it,
I will be there for your needs.
(Note: I hated the sound of this sonnet immediately after I had written it. And I probably paid the price for it.)
A wounded beast, I stalk the corridors,
the passageways of my hidden, broken soul –
hungering for freedom from the wretched pain
that hems in, that locks up, and that ties in knots
my twisted thoughts, and renders everything
I touch an ill-begotten, uninspired blotch.
The memories of our June embrace
I struggle to preserve. The touch, the taste
of love was sweet and tender, not the salt
and rust my present occupation yields to me.
Yet as we speak, I pace the halls, the
closets of our mind, and searching, I uncover
the one I came to know and grew to love
Yet lives, and writes, inspired from above.
Your sonnets reached my mailbox today.
I plunged into them like a dog in heat.
Absorbing them, my hardened soul was moved
to tears of passion, blinding, bittersweet.
The symphony of words you now compose,
Resulting from deep inspirations, pure,
You weave, majestically, as from an ancient source,
And share with me and cause me to conjure
New images. Lines that bear the current and
The voltage of the engine of my soul,
Your whispers loosen knots that bind me,
Your words unwind me, make me whole.
And work I must to now retain
These prayers I send up in your name.
Dear friend my evening well was spent
Engaged in thoughts’ exchange, review,
Revealing my ill soul’s intent
To heal itself, be born anew.
I love your rhythms, rhymes and notes,
They lift my spirits, higher, ever.
You are the perfect antidote
For poisoned darts and hearts that sever.
Tonight I need a stronger brew,
Poured in a mug, steeped with emotion,
Some blend of herbs my fathers knew,
a wine of sleep, a witches’ potion.
My thirst is far from being quenched.
My heart and soul in pain are drenched.
I’m torn between two sinking ships,
Two jealous mistresses who hate.
To choose one is to choose them both:
The choice is clear; I hesitate
Deciding and the moment slips away.
New ships are landing at my pier
From places strange, from shores untold.
They beckon me to come aboard,
I hesitate. Once more events unfold
Revealing feelings that are blue.
My pilot bids me change my course,
Steer clear of danger, shallow shoals.
I navigate the ship through storms
To reach the resting place of souls.
Dear faithful friend, the spirit
Of the verses that we write,
Excites us and invites us
To relive that summer’s night.
There are those who do not put stock
In resurrection’s power;
They hem and haw at warnings
Of the coming of the hour.
I too had doubts about beliefs
That dead could come to life,
Then my forgotten love for you
Was resurrected, born anew . . .
Unclothed we come into this world, possession-less, alone,
The odyssey to reach each goal acquaints us with new pain,
Each stumbling block, despite the odds, becomes a stepping stone,
And every loss, a predecessor to a greater gain.
Our meeting was revealed to me when I was but a child:
A revelation of a form, a loveliness, pristine,
Yet planted in my heart was that pure vision, undefiled,
Someday to manifest itself just as it was foreseen.
I found you when I lacked the wherewithal to make you mine,
Distressed, perplexed, I felt compelled to spell my love that June.
That summer’s love was but a glimpse into a world divine,
A harbinger of better days, of times more opportune.
We’ll meet again and then we must decide upon the hour –
When we’ll allow our destinies to intertwine and flower.
We’ve been delayed from getting underway.
This pause affords me time to write to you
Some thoughtful verse, to contemplate, to pray,
To call my father’s gods, subdue
The passion, pain, excitement of the day.
I read your sonnets, gifts of Spring,
About our love one June.
I miss our chats when I’m away at sea.
Communion with you makes me know I’m blessed.
The poet in me prays you’ll always be
My friend, my lover, object of my quest,
And sonneteer of magic poetry.
March love outlives the summer’s fling,
‘Cause summer ends too soon.
When overburdened with the cares and woes
Of everyday travail, I take a pause
To recollect, arrange my thoughts, compose
Some verse for you, attempting to disclose
A word, a clause, the laws that bind our hearts
Together in a total work of art.
Our love cannot be bound by words and notes,
Though flawed, confined to secrecy, and mute.
We can’t stand on a mountaintop, promote
Abroad this feeling, though it keeps our boat
Afloat amid the sunken wrecks, unmarked,
Unseen by those who fail to read the charts . . .
I love you, yes, I can’t ignore the force
That steers me steady on life’s stormy course.
Before I fall asleep each night I read
The poems you’ve sent: they are my prayers, my hope,
My joy, prescription for my timeless need.
I read them twice, I measure every slope
And curve, defining and deriving their
Delights, despite the doom you recommend
Our end would be if we should ever touch
Our lips to lips, our flesh to flesh again.
My compass true, my anchor sound, I’ll find
The key to treasures long forgotten, long
Unrecognized, preserved within the mind
Of poets who still sing the sonnet’s song.
And you, my friend, write on your sullen dirge.
I wager we’ll survive its sterile purge.
One April day the crew got underway,
With Captain’s-gig and hopes and spirits high,
Embarking on a lark to old St. Augustine,
To seek for LUCE the blessing of the fleet.
We passed shacks, mansions, rich and poor that lined
The shore. Along the beach the sand was brown
Like mud; ebb tide exposed the rotted posts
Where fishing boats and captain’s gigs could land.
LUCE led the slow procession past the stands
Where stood the Bishop, color guard, and friends,
He sprinkled us with water from his hands,
And smiled and spoke his blessing for the fleet:
God bless the fleet that shields our shores from harm.
Protect the ships that silence war’s alarm.
A young man’s life expired on my ship
Today. He walked aboard at dawn, intent
(One must assume) to start his day, his life
Anew. Then suddenly, without consent,
Without the chance to bargain, beg, or plead,
The messenger of death unsheathed his sword,
Cut off the breath, suppressed the beating heart
Of life once vibrant, cocksure, confident.
A young man died, was his the first, the last
To reach the end of dreams, the final breath
To take? When all the storms of life have passed,
And evil’s jurisdiction over souls
Is brought to naught, the truth, once crucified,
Will rise to save the souls of hopes that died.
Dear friend, I listen to your poems of late,
And contemplate the dreaded thought of life
Without the prospect of your fond embrace;
I reminisce about that kiss one June:
Too soon, too late to consummate; too true
To be denied, too pure to not be sure
That God intended for our souls to dwell
As one, exclusive, all-embracing love—
No matter what the future holds in store,
I did, I do I’ll always love you more
And more; though distance separate us far,
I’ll search the constellations for that star
That shines in you. And should I die, too soon,
Apart from you, we’ll meet again one June.
Dear friend, with pen in hand and feelings true
I sing for you this song. Despite my voice,
Too base in places to be understood,
You’ll sense the message: soothing, moving, light,
Disarming, satisfying. Rendezvous
Tonight with me, take flight, delight, rejoice
In that we share this love, exchange this word
That lives past sunsets, through the darkest night.
I can’t contain the energy this thought
Now generates: it makes me want to dance,
Sing, shout, tell all the worlds, turn somersaults;
It makes me grateful, thankful for romance.
When passing passions blue bid me adieu,
I seek safe harbors, true, kind friend, near you.
Today I watched the shuttle launched towards space.
A tail of fire plowed the southern morning sky
Until it disappeared. I thought about
The people there, behind the scenes, who made,
It all occur. There’s someone there whose life
Is less than free from care, a lonely heart,
Dis-eased, distressed, beset by worries, woes,
Who, overcoming all, finds sweet the reaching
Of the goal. There’re happy ones who feel the tinge
Of sadness at the thought of those who’ve missed
By fate the thrill of launch complete, the charm,
The pure romance of making dreams come true.
The shuttle jets toward heaven, far away
From troubles, closer still to hopes ideal.
Dear friend I left our poems ashore to gain
A clear and fresh perspective on romance
So new, unfolding through these notes exchanged
By mail. In some respects I’m at a loss
For words that rhyme: these thoughts, sublime, contain
The elements of hope divine, the chance
That you might share, with me, again, unchanged
Thrills sought and found that star-crossed night in June.
It can’t be as it was. It must be less
Or more. Our lust for life has aged, matured,
We’ve wined and dined on bittersweets, endured
The loss and gain of joy’s and pain’s excess.
And yet I can’t forget that night in June,
When we read Shelley, kissed, and touched the moon.
The spirit’s come and gone. And yet remains
The hull, the shell wherein no true love thrives
Today. The salvaged traces laugh at me,
At us for make-believing fairy-tales
And happy endings where romance is sweet,
Where love runs deep, where passions overflow,
Eclipsing sun and moon and night and day.
The spirit waves good-bye and with a sigh
I lift my eyes, my chin, my sinking heart
To God, to plead for strength to understand
This plan, this life so fraught with strife, so full
Of chance and happenstance and foiled romance.
The deed is done, its end is near. Revere
The strength that overcomes a darkened year.
Two months have passed since last I read from you
A poem, wherein you bid your heart awake,
Return again, transcend that hellish gore
Where life and love are but the vapid glow
Which covers, hides and smothers innocence.
I beg to understand, to know the truth
About that grave whereof you speak, where fools
Like me are brought, at last, to dismal ends.
My love of life is greater than my hope
That we might share again the joy we knew
That June. Another spring is come, and June
Will visit soon enough to cast its spell.
My love for poems and poets knows no end—
I can’t be just the object of your pen.
Dear friend, take up your pen again, compose
Those works of art that live and breathe and sing
The rhapsody of love and hope. Revive
Anew in you the spirit of the Muse
To guide, to entertain, and to enthuse.
Restore the democratic art, the urge
To write, embraceable, attainable
By all. Take up your pen, today, obey
God’s highest call: express the good, the true,
The beautiful. Articulate in verse
Life’s purest, deepest, noblest sentiments;
Preserve in rhyme and rhythm secrets sent.
Take up your pen again, the times demand
Your words be heard, your dreams rise up and stand.
Remember years ago when we first met?
You selling books, me browsing, reading books
At Brandon’s store? We were so young, and life
So unrevealed, so full of promises
And boundless hopes and dreams, and guarantees
And opportunities. You went away.
I stayed and made mistakes. We met again,
You east, me west, you school, me ships and seas.
Confused, we erred and severed friendship’s bond,
And all seemed lost between us save a thread,
A laser beam of hope that, over time,
Compressed, distilled and purified, survived
Until today. We meet again. What fate
Awaits is ours to plan, to recommend.
I look back to the time we shared and smile,
And smile and grin and laugh with joy untapped
Before that smile. Our spirits span the miles
That separate our hearts, that keep us trapped
Apart, detached, disjointed from that source
of strength, of love the gods bequeathed to gods
At birth. We rendezvous beyond, outside
The force of chance and fate. Our senses fuse,
United endlessly in time and space;
The spark of life ignites and multiplies,
Acknowledging a power all its own.
Dear friend I can’t ignore the call of June:
In just a few short weeks we’ll meet, we’ll taste
The chilled sweet wine, fermented, aged and pure.
Dear faithful friend I count each passing day,
I pray for time to instantly elapse,
Events to fill the gaps that separate
And isolate my life from thine. Oh fate,
Do draw me nearer, nearer to the heart
That beats in sync, in step with mine– to thee,
To thee, sweet angel of my childhood dreams!
I’ll smile to see you, touch you, taste your smile,
And all the while my soul has longed to lodge
Near yours will seem like but a brief delay,
A short, short stay away from heaven’s bliss.
I fantasize that when we meet we’ll kiss,
And cry, and tears will rinse away, dissolve
The walls we’ve built to hold in check our love.
Dear friend, perhaps our paths may cross again:
Perchance, we’ll meet together at the top,
Or down below, beneath the crowds, inside
The underground. Perhaps we’ll be united
By a cause, a hope, a dream, a fantasy . . .
Perhaps we’ll join together out of fear
Or love for something we perceive to be.
It matters not my love, the force, the source
That consecrates the ground on which we’ll meet:
It matters not the season of the year
(Though June is sweet!), nor the place that destiny
Prescribes, we’ll meet! The Muses tell us so!
Though circumstance as yet precludes the fate
The gods have planned, I wait, I wait, I wait…