Saturday, July 18, 2015

Concerning Grace

Concerning Grace
(Two Sonnets, with an Optional Epilogue)


So here's the one whose time has almost gone
who plays in ashes wishing they were fire
who plays with leaving, wishing to linger on
who never knows a quickening desire  
except to rue that sunset follows dawn,
(sleepless, the dark brings out a red hot wire)
where all night's horses trample Hyperion
where every hope is gutted for a lyre.

Grace would be a welcome thing to save
as a thousand mouths split open at their seams,
all bored but quite unable to stop the screech.
Grace here would be a welcome thing to have,
dividing dark from light in separate dreams---
but grace is grey and dancing out of reach.


All things have a radiance at the start
when life is burning like a star that falls
when passion is a door that swings ajar
to a room that never was a room at all.
But I am a thing whose time is almost done
a seed that shattered back on the recoil
that spent its force in cracking mountain stone 
put down its root in dead indifferent soil
thinking it could color and unfold
like Eos blooms her brother's fiery ball
from horizon to horizon, red to gold,
its petals scented jasmine as they'd fall.

Life yields a withered stalk, but gives me grace
to die and leave some richness in my place.

~July 2015

Process note: In Greek myth, Hyperion is the Titan of light, father of Helios, the sun, Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn.

posted for    real toads

Weekend Challenge: Goodness Gracious

Karin Gustafson (ManicdDaily) asks us to say grace, or at least to speak of it, think of it, and perhaps even write a poem about it. I have chosen to do a couple of sonnets, as grace seems a topic suitable to such. (The first is Sicilian, the second, Shakespearean, hopefully.) 

And for STRICTLY OPTIONAL reading for those who prefer free verse, or who are gluttons for punishment, to complete the theme of 'Three Graces,' I include as an Epilogue my egregiously long, semi-free verse, fragmented pre-poem these sonnets came from (*definitely* a draft!) below: 

Epilogue: Broken Notes on Grace

A thing whose time is almost gone
must look for grace to stop its lingering on;
each moment spent within that lingering
groping for the finick'd forgotten fingering
mocks the spark it once knew how to burn
in ashes of what's gone and all in vain,
for that will never give its light again.


Grace eludes in this clamoring dream
where a thousand mouths split open their seams 
bored but unable to stop their screech
as it dances by, out of their reach.


All things have a beginning
when they are radiant
when for a moment
they are potent
when grace falls open
like a well thumbed book
to the favorite mark
when grace is a door
without a handle
without a hook
that opens to
no room at all.

But I am a thing
whose time is done,
spent seed that once blew
too dry and far, that
spent all its force
to crack the stone
put down its root in poisoned soil
thinking still it might somehow unfold
instead grew spindly, twisted,
finally cold.

Now in the time of withering
I look for grace
to untie each starveling leaf
and let it fall--
some richness for this tight atomic dust
before the coming winter takes it all.

Images: The Three Graces, 16th Century, by Corregio
Public domain via wikimedia commons
Winter Sunflower, copyright 2014 joyannjones


  1. These are lovely and sad, wistful and filled with regret. :-( Nice lines with sadness infused.

  2. Hey Hedge--you must be tired! A ton of work here; and by that I really don’t mean length so much as craft--a great deal of inspired craft here that must have taken time and intense focus. It’s interesting how different the tilt of the sonnets and the freer verse are--the freer verse in fact more modern seeming, with its atomic winter looming. I tend to go for sonnets simply because they make a very strong music, although I very much like some of the things you weren’t able to squeeze into the sonnets--the opening of the free verse one is very profound, grace being what lets us out, and the beautiful bits about grace as the well-thumbed marked book--fanstastic==that entire verse has a wonderful cadence as musical as any sonnet. 

But I also find myself more drawn to the indifferent soil than the poisoned soil as that seemed ultimately more human and more poignant oddly--well, the poisoned soil goes with the atomic winter, and with the modern age quality of the freer verse, but the indifferent soil feels very true on a human (non-pesticidy) level, the difficulty of growing in a cold place.

    Going to the two sonnets--they have just great meter and rhyme and your description is beautifully distilled by the choice of words--I love the no quickening desire but rueing the following sunset, and I love the radiant at the start line, and I like the arc and circle of the sonnets and the fact that there is a kind of redemption thereand there is something pretty great about redemption. (I am sure you will have many adherents to the darker view, but the sonnets seem to offer a solution somehow, or I should say, their own grace, in that the seed seems at the least to make the soil less indifferent if through nothing else but its decomposition. 

The mythical references work super well throughout, maybe especially in the sonnets. 

The idea of grace as the snipper of the life thread is very beautiful in the free--and very true, and maybe not quite as clear in the sonnets--but the sonnets have this idea of redemption at the end, and in the first one, the frustration of the grace out of reach. I love the hope gutted for a lyre--it could be read many ways, but I take it as the regurgitation of the poet.

    Anyway, thanks so much for your time and attention to this and the beautiful and inspired offerings, which I can see did not come from inspiration alone, but hard work.

    Sorry for the length of this comment--you should feel free to cut some or not post. k.

    1. I really *appreciate* the length of the comment, k--you have done a great job of analyzing the motifs running through all three versions--and yes, it was *much* more time consuming than I thought it would be when i idly said--'Oh, this would make a cool sonnet' ;_) Probably because i am really not that fluent in the form that it comes easily--but I love, as you say, the music it can make. Thanks so much for this prompt, which allowed me to get rid of some baggage, as well as have the fun of writing all afternoon--and thanks for seeing the redemption under the falling leaves.

    2. PS - I was going to say that the idea of grace being the way to "survive" the getting out of all this comes through in the sonnets too, but the grace of the snip, rather than the possibility of surviving gracefully, is clearer in the free verse-- I probably said that already but I was thinking this morning that the sonnets really do have it too. k.

  3. It's nice to see the theme explored three ways here. Still, I like the final couplet in the second sonnet best.

    1. Yes, two lines may have been enough here, instead of two million.

  4. I wish that Grace would visit my Gramma just saying. Not that I wish her I'll but quality of life you know. You know I like the free verse. And when my time comes I won't really on that grace I am just gonna wAnder into the woods and find my bear to wrestle you know. Every day that draws just a bit closer.

    I would analyze more but the band is pumping and my beer is sweating. And I just lost a hand of cards leaving this comment. Ha.

    1. At least your band isn't sweating and the beer pumping--or maybe they are.. ;_) Thanks for everything over the years, Hawk--you've been a friend and big supporter of my writing always--I hope we all have the grace to know when to go look for that bear.

  5. This is beautiful work!! Inspired :)

  6. Joy, as always, I am amazed at the language you find to say everything so beautifully. As you are much younger than I am, I am assuming the voice in this poem is not you definitely resonates with me, though I'm not ready to go any time soon.....the pressure is on to work, work, work while I can. The first was so fantastic, I got attached to it, though the epilogue is wonderful too.

    1. I doubt I am all that much younger Sherry. I agree about the pressure--to at least figure things out, anyway. ;_) Thanks for all your kind support and words over the years--they have meant, and continue to mean much.

  7. I enjoyed all three pieces. The first because of the beat--as I read it, in my head, it sounded as a dance between a prayer and a low wail. The ending of the second poem made me smile; I like the contentment contained within those line, the knowledge that after the end... the speaker will still offer something wonderful. But as you already know, I love free verse; the seemingly wild lines sing to me. They remind me of the rawness and unpredictability of Nature... I mean, we know that a seed will most likely turn into a sprout and then something more, but the mystery of how each seed gets there always enchants me. It's how I feel free verse: natural, raw, close and alive. ♥

    1. Thanks, Magaly. I agree about the seeds--the mystery within them, each one taking its own course to bloom and droop. I began writing free verse fifty or so years ago--it still is my natural way to think and speak poetry, but I also have enjoyed learning the discipline of forms, because , as you see here, they work like a chemical experiment on one's words--adding a little pentameter makes a march, braiding the rhyme a certain way gives a special twist--anyway, I appreciate you spending the time reading all three, and thanks for your interest and support--we writers truly are 'almost gone' without it.

  8. OK, so the first stanza channels Hart Crane and the second Robison Jeffers, the first supremely gifted but something also immensely squandered, ever adding up to a zero, unable to slake its thirst properly with a grace that never seems to offer its boon (like God lost in a NIetzschean night). -- An eyeless oracle, so to speak, sleepless ---: And the second is into day, what there is left to do, small though it is and of no mythic account, good and real and sustaining, if only in the way nature blazes in fullness as it dies. And three (the epilogue) reminds us that there are three graces, and this one is the one that completes the dance of the other two, turning back into the round: for me a grace note perhaps taking Eliot's "Four Quartets" as its key, merrily back to work as the world collapses under war. Of course those agon poets are just tropes of the Hedgewitchean turns of mind, which, for better and worse, are the finest of verse ... Grace indeed is hard to assuage.

    1. I've never read much Hart Crane, and only recently a bit of Robinson Jeffers--they are shadowy when I think of them, but of course, the river of poetry runs down rather welll-grooved channels, all carrying pretty much the same water, picking up flavors and shape from many sources. Your interpretation is solid and spot on, and the world intrudes a bit, I agree, with its chaos and entropy mirrored in the helplessness of age and the smallness of what one feels one will be able to do in the meager allotment left--anyway, it was a great relief to write these up and get them out of the place where they were exerting pressure on the psyche--the feeling of powerlessness one's body gives one sometimes is quite terrifying, even as it also brings great clarity and resolution. Thanks, B, for the privilege of reading your own writing, the understanding and depth of feeling it has so often brought, and all it has done to enrich and embellish the tapestry we all work at, like the weavers of Bayeux, for our ephemeral lifetimes, for all the inspiration, feedback, aggravation and friendship you have brought to the work here over the years. It is part of where all this comes from now; my writing wouldn't be the same without it, and I am grateful.

    2. Aw thanks H. Ditto ditto ditto.

  9. I beg to differ. With poems like these, your time is not "almost done". I'm glad I read your beautiful poem. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

    1. Thank you--appreciate the kind words and support!

  10. I thought that was lovely, each piece birthing new emotions and vividness -all enchanting at the same time. Well done!

  11. The second and third lines of the opening sonnet are perfect examples of why I love your imagery so much. I suppose we all do leave something worthwhile behind, despite the inhospitable soil and the rooms that are no rooms at all. Perhaps, we even leave more than we think we do, in the moment of living it.

    1. I believe we do--some of it hopefully even good. Thanks, Shay--your words are ones that always mean much to me.

  12. The very idea that Grace is grey makes so much sense to me. Wonderful work! I can't even begin to choose which I like the best!

  13. These have become my new favorites. S2 of the first poem is great, with the mouths split at the seams, and grace dancing out of reach. And the image of t seed on rocky ground in the second poem is fresh, when it could so easily become cliche. And, when reading your poetry now, as always, I feel as though I've stepped into myth. Love them both, and also your free-ish verse after.

  14. Each sonnet is a marvel of thought and structure. I was particularly spellbound during the sestet of the first sonnet, but the pair work so well together in the exploration of Grace. I think it a rare opportunity to see your preliminary notes, and note how you have fine-tuned the ideas. Thanks, Hedge.

    1. Thank you Kerry, and thanks for four years of wonderful Toadsy things. ;_)

  15. Grrr...I left a rather lengthy comment yesterday, which I am seeing did not post here. My second attempt starts now-

    Love the sonnets and (opitional) epilogue. What I think was done particularly well it that last stellar line of sonnet one: "but grace is grey and dancing out of reach." And how that juxtaposes to the opening of sonnet two: "all things have a radiance at the start." That contrast and revolving thought cycle is amazing. The schism between the two is awesomely displayed here. I also really like the tone of your narrator, it fit the theme well. Viva la!!!

    1. Thanks, Izzy. Sorry you had the aggravation of having to re-do the comment. I hate that--but I love that you came back.

  16. That second stanza made me cry. Just beautiful.

  17. "Life yields a withered stalk, but gives me grace
    to die and leave some richness in my place." You've given my prayer wings

  18. the second sonnet makes me think of my daughter, and of finding a bear... ~


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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