Five Sonnets by John Reed






Twenty years, knock knock, and I’m without strings,

while you, too, rattle your knobs down hallways.

If hawseholes still linger, I don’t look for them.

I don’t wonder, darling, about the hand,  

which waits, without a palm, without an other—

no valence of clouds or eyes in the blue—

mantled above what we can remember,

above the dead side and our varnished pupils.

But what if, what-if we, our cords untangled,

quivered by our fetters, ensnared again?

And the footlights kindled our wooden faces,

and we tossed embraces to jointed limbs,

suspended, while we clattered painted lips.




I knew we’d be seeing each other again.

It looks like everyone else is here, too.

All of us, once angels, who finally finished falling.

We were so crazy about here and there,

when the little difference was “always,”

or the other eternity, “never.”

Just listen to all of this childless laughter.

Now we are gone, and here we can stay,

you and I, who are you and I no more,

who tore apart our daughters for the bears,

who offered our sons to God, LOL,

who are, we know, we’ve forgotten who,

who are now outside of ourselves, without when.


78 (valentine)


Momma, are there other wooden children?

Momma, am I your only wooden child?

The others, momma, are they more alive?

Do the meat children offer you their hearts?

Momma, you know I have no heart to give,

but I have given you axes, and chainsaws,

and I’ve said you could cut off my limbs, 

you could take me down to timbers, momma.

Chop me down, momma, and I’ll give you my stars.

Why momma, why, do I still have my sky?

Oh momma cut me down, or I’ll grow wild.

Momma cut me down, if you won’t come again,

I have no love, I have no love for the wren.


9 (seventy)


Seventy-seven ladies of sorrow,

dear hearts, cruel hearts, broken hearts and true hearts,

none of us saints, all of us hallowed,

for all that we teased, and picked life apart,

for all of our dreams, like flashes of dark,

for all of our heaving, gone with a puff,

for lipstick-rimmed crystal, greasy and stark,

for ashtrays of filtered cigarettes, snuffed,

for the little we took for far too much,

we shall be inurned in chambers of want.

For the youth we lost: be mingled in dust.

Be one dying breath in a shell of conch.

Seventy-seven, ladies of sorrow,

farewell my loves, and wake me tomorrow. 




Come to me like tomorrow to a child.

Like the day is cradle, blue world below,

to the misty, tussled dreams, half wild,

of cherished seraphs in cloudy furrows.

Like the dawn will wake us to memories

yet unknown, waiting in our baby brows.

Our lives of snow to fall upon the sea.

Our little losses just the cheer of crows.

Wake me, my sweet, to our pinky bodies,

like newborn pigs in sacks of spiky wheat.

Like she is, she is, she is she: a tease, / an angel, and a laughing whiskey neat.

Wake me, baby, from this too too solid dream. / Exit the woman, and enter, the steam.


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