Saturday, March 3, 2007


Years before I wrote that sestina with the swell-to-great organ metaphors, I used a similar image in this sonnet about, of all things, a piece of office equipment. The most embarrassing thing about it is that very few offices still have these things. I am not too humble to say that I am a virtuoso typist, and I learned to play on an electric typewriter, at a time when even computer printers sounded like typewriters (albeit unnaturally even-paced ones). No matter. What this sonnet is really about is the act of writing. Any port in a storm.

Such mordents improvised to martial drums,
Each gesture frees a self-creating bird;
To bells the unsung lyrics were begun,
Now blooming each into a silent word.
The fingers courtly bow and nod with dash,
A wild cadenza searching for a theme;
The muffled volleys sound with distant clash,
One swelling, never uttered, senseless scream.
The march, unmeaning, goes with hoisted guns,
With eloquence its mutterings forth pour.
Whole empty speeches, gestures have become;
Unspeakable they never will be more.
This organ too, with neither great nor swell,
Yet sounds vast ranks, and loudest plays when still.

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