Three Sonnets

Robert Thomas

Sonnet with Swan and Long Tall Sally
What if we’re the crux, the diamond lynchpin?
What if creatures in other galaxies
have a vague sense that something is missing,
but don’t know it’s Little Richard, Shakespeare,
and cornbread with plum jam? They have their songs,
but like the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge, not
Exile on Main Street, or as if Monet
stopped painting before the water lilies;
their idea of sex is what dogs do or
Nixons. Their squidy eyes would see the most
gauche galoot of us as Baryshnikov
dancing Swan Lake on gold wires, dulcimer
strings over water. And for what that dark
lake is made of their language has no words.

Sonnet with Fish and Bayonet
I can’t forget seeing them sharing sole
through the window of Tadich Grill, someone
I don’t like, daring to split a carafe
with someone else I don’t like. Am I that
shallow? And yet the way she lifts her glass
like Liberté: red flag and bayonet.
As if I’d never learned of endangered
species, including mine, or heard of lead
in drinking water. Never seen the brusque,
middle-aged mother with no way to know
if anyone will look out for her child,
now playing hide-and-seek so happily,
as the sun goes down behind the pear tree,
in the tool shed where the sharp things are stored.

Sonnet with Splinters and Veronicas
The loft above the garage—who would have
found us there? Among my mother’s college
scrapbooks, souvenirs from her Chicago
nightclubs, her weekend escapes from Duluth.
You would have lain back on the army cot
Uncle Wally had stored there years before
along with the mess kit from his two wars.
I would have knelt on the splintered pine floor
as you put my hand on your Hard Day’s Night
T-shirt—George looked like Jesus on the Shroud
of Turin. I’d stroke the veronica,
the veil that wiped the sweat from Jesus’ skin
and the final pass of the matador’s
small red cape over such gently curved horns.

Robert Thomas is the author of two collections of poems, Door to Door and Dragging the Lake. His story sequence Bridge was awarded the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction.
Originally published:
November 1, 2017


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