In the book review for Sonnets of Eve, I mention being a fan of the sonnet series. Here’s one I wrote in the early 1990s when I was a laddie who fancied himself a poet:
O air, o sweetest air, why flee you so?
My tightened lungs can scarcely keep with you!
A thief, she steals my breath and doesn’t know,
this goddess sweet and yet a mortal too.
O words, my wondrous words, where are you now?
The longing songs, the wit I hope I own?
What will I say, what voice, what face, and how?
I must, or find myself again alone.
O voice, my treacherous voice, o fail me not!
Command you I to speak a flowered verse,
or make a jest, I could, I ought!
But what were she to laugh or something worse?
Yet I resolve with steeled heart to try,
I open up my mouth but walk on by.
My thundering youthful heart, beat not so hard,
for volume’s strength can never measure love.
Your maddening thuds may put her on her guard,
and now she looks this way, o Lord above!
My reddening cheeks, how dare you color so?
The blood is needed somewhere else, I’m sure,
so cheeks to normal hue, for no winds blow,
and any tint is but a sign to her.
My whitened hands, you tremble with no cause.
No beasts with snarling fangs or bloody cries
are here to threaten me, to give me pause:
no thing to fear, except those sapphire eyes.
To rest, I need to shirk or take the task;
that means to flee, or worse, to simply ask.
But am I not a somewhat virtued man?
No god, tis true, but somewhat more than beast.
No Hercules, no Titan but I can,
with passioned might, hold tightly her, at least.
No Apollo I, but Phoebus has his chore.
Around the earth he daily makes his way,
and I, the mortal one, have less but more,
for she would be the center of my day.
No Zeus am I, no thunderbolts or such,
no power or the wish to take a life,
but then, I lust for but one woman’s touch,
remaining true to she, my dreamed wife.
No perfect god could I e’er try to be,
perhaps there’s good within my modesty.
No god, but something more than beast am I
and virtues must I have to make me so.
Not swine that roots about his muddy sty,
but I exhume my heart that way, I know.
No sloth who loafs about his treetop bed
and never ventures far from places known.
I am a vigored youth with love unfed,
I must then go the way my heart has shown.
No mouse am I who fears to softly tread
on ground too near to any human frame.
I am a man of couraged heart and head,
who’ll call, with hopes and fears aside, her name.
And with a braced heart and hopeful eye
and steady voice shall speak to her, and try.
“O sweetest light that ever graced my eyes,
that made complete the painting of my world
as does the sun when warming bluest skies
or oysters when they’re found as lightly pearled,
will you consent to let me warm your nights
when you are cold of chill or cold of heart
and let me salve with care your deepest frights
with healing words which are my only art
and sit with me before the snapping flames
throughout the harsh and snowy winter days
with cider and our talk and loving names
to keep the tender fires within ablaze
–oh, I digress, my question is but this:
will you be mine and share in loving bliss?”
“You silly boy, you talk with dumb big words
that make no sense to human ears like mine
and tangle up your sentences like other nerds
who think they’re talking smart and looking fine.
Are words like that supposed to win my heart?
An oyster with a pearl? A sunny sky?
How strange you speak of me! It’s hardly art.
I think you are a little out there, guy.
And to propose a ‘loving bliss’ with you,
well, bliss is not the word that comes to mind.
I’d say a dreadful hell, eternal too,
were I to think of it and be unkind.
So boy, you go and build your cloudy castles,
but I don’t need those silly poet hassles.”
In my defense, I wrote that when I was 21 years old and was under the influence of Millay, Spenser, Shakespeare, and whatnot. I got better, but not much.
Also, note that the preceding is copyright 1993 Brian J. Noggle and cannot be reproduced without the expressed written consent of the author. This means you, Harvey.
I remember in like January 1994 performing the piece at MoKaBe’s coffee house back when it was in Kirkwood, Missouri. I had spent the time before the poetry reading playing chess with Michael O’Brian, local poetry slam superstar, and he was falling prey to the Noggle blitz. That is, he thought perhaps there was method in my propensity for putting pieces in danger chasing his pieces; maybe that simple harvesting of my rooks and bishops was an intentional sacrifice in my long term plan. However, he became bored with the game when he probably suspected I didn’t know what I was doing and wandered off. That’s right, he RESIGNED in the face of the OVERWHELMING Noggle blitz.
At any rate, it was one of my first open mic nights, so I read the pieces from printed sheets of paper. I did, however, enlist a young lady named Amy to perform the final piece in response to the first five sonnets, and she probably did better than I did.
I would later write my first piece geared specifically for performance, “Visions and Revisions: A Prelude for Amy”, for the young lady. I performed it for her while sitting in the lobby of the local theatre while we awaited Dancing at Lughnasa. She was so impressed she used me to get the attention of my best friend at the time. Ah, youth.
But I digress. That’s what I have to offer for a series of sonnets as a means of comparison to Flora May Johnson Pierce.