The Lady Scholar’s Private Dissertation
His sonnets study character, and then
They pose conundrums, relish a tiny joke,
Or rise from parlous jungles, equivocal smoke
From a hermit’s cookfire far removed from men.
Not that it matters. My own smoke arises
To blind me, sending signals of distress,
Unrecognized, whatever I confess
To the staring sun—no profit, no surprises.
I turn a page; here lies no remedy
For ignorance or absence, no real thrill
Repays my plunder here, or ever will.
The words engage an alien sympathy.
Yet I persist, I scan and puzzle and pry
To penetrate evasions, find the lie
The Unconfused Tarantula, I Mean, Tarantella
As burgerish Torvald smites the ivory keys
With spousal diligence, his manly face
A study in patient tolerance, dormant lust,
And bankerish inflexibility,
Who whirls to please? With driven feet,
Approximating Circe, ha, muchacho!
Driving fear’s theatricality
Into an irresistible swirl of hope,
A panting, passionate acceleration
Of its own deadly evaporation.
A Little Ham for the Kaiser
“I shook with dread lest the wolves might eat Napoleon.”
“Crisis is my middle name.”
Let us tolerate certain tyrants, for years
Of helplessness cultivate our fears
And grind our groveling faces in routines
Which pacify these giants looming above
And make us skilled deliverers of love
And calculating little schemers of scenes.
As clever kids, we fled the bully’s wrath,
Minnows in shallows; here we brightly flee
Deep-water monsters roving randomly,
And dodge in terror from the dangerous path.
Arriving now to our destined state
Of dignity, we look about to see
Whose egos must be favored diligently,
For this is the service we negotiate.
Yet in such servitude grows desire
To see the autocrat’s complacency
Give way to recognition, a peripety
Hurling vain pettiness into dreadful fire,
With pain from what one now contemplates
Partly purged as some vast wheel rotates.
R. W. Haynes is a Professor of English at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. His poetry has been widely published, and his main academic interest is currently the late American playwright/screenwriter Horton Foote.
All work is the rightful property of the author and is distributed with their permission.