The Telephone Sonnets

These pieces are designed to be read as a fragmented dialogue between Husband and Wife.

As with opera, the synopsis is quite simple: Husband runs out, Wife finds him at a hotel.

◊ ◊ ◊

Husband — An Ambush
Wife — Chaos Feast
Husband — My Melancholy Blur, a villanelle
Wife — Great Mess

Husband — Unending, a ghazal
Wife — Who Lives With Me
Husband — Fern Lake
Wife — Nothing Found

Husband — An Afterthought
Wife — Lose the Day

◊ ◊ ◊


Husband — An Ambush

I’ve only two pints drunk in all,
Perchance to borrow common woes.
Relief ‘pon mine the ale bestows
And serves as goat to scape this call.

‘Tis cruel maneuver, I suppose,
An ambush to obscure retreat,
I’ve called tonight with ill conceit,
To end our marriage I propose.

Our home you’ll find now incomplete,
Neat stacks of rooms and doors there stand
Of which none hold my wife’s husband,
Who’s left her naught but ghosts to greet.

Alas, disband hearts held in thrall,
And bear the pall of love once grand.


Wife — Chaos Feast

Your love’s no feast nor light dessert prepared
With moment’s ease, but chaos loudly shared
Among your careless flock whose thirsts increase
With your despair. When you, my love, are least,
My love, I swear, maintains its guarantees,
And love is rare that loves not by degrees.

Your absentee surrenders I forswear,
Pathetic pleas won’t alter proper prayers,
I will appease you thus: you are impaired,
But your disease is not drink – you’re scared.

Your love’s no feast; indeed it’s moldy fare,
An ancient yeast by which my love is spared; But,
When supper’s ceased and grievances have aired,
My palate’s pleased to be your spirit’s pair.


Husband — My Melancholy Blur

We’re not so happy now as once we were,
Exquisite contrast aged unsightly grays.
Oh, leave me to my melancholy blur.

My early luck, a promise false but sure,
Misled obliging virtue toward malaise.
We’re not so happy now as once we were.

For auld lang syne, unmerry months defer.
Let memory preserve our fervent days,
Go, leave me to my melancholy blur.

We’ll handle it however you prefer,
Some private ceremony that displays
We’re not so happy now as once we were.

I’ve only drunk enough to speech my slur.
A whiskey straight by eighteen coffees chased.
Ah, leave me to my melancholy blur.

The raging passions yield to bitter purrs,
And heightened speech transcends low voices raised,
We’re not so happy now as once we were.
Please. Leave me to my melancholy blur.


Wife — Great Mess

You great mess of a man, fool of a mess,
Can we at least discuss our happiness?
At least discard what’s falsely obvious?
Let’s try to corner what’s the cause of this.

We were happy more when we were penniless.
When all was struggle, joy came easiest.
Now all is easy but the giddiness,
Because you care too much for carelessness.

You go on and on that we go on like this,
Like we agree something’s gone amiss.
You forget we began by starts and fits.
It happens I adore our haphazardness.

Don’t hope for higher forms of happiness.
Have peace and live without analysis.


Husband — Unending

I’m much too cautiously discreet myself,
Regretfully, I must repeat myself.

To court unending silence and your laugh,
Both infidel flirtations cheat myself.

To gallop off full speed or tilt to joust,
What for? Won’t either charge disseat myself?

Commit to holy verse or earthly praise?
That each vocation may delete my Self?

To choose a sole pursuit precludes one half
I’ve lived. Both paths connect to meet my Self.

One understands the forfeit signed by Faust.
My daemons ceaselessly entreat my Self.

The concierge remembers prior stays,
Mephisto hints I never treat myself.


Wife — Who Lives With Me

Who is this who lives with me like a guest?
It can’t be he with reason to complain!
He who from all engagements must refrain,
& though inflexible is always stressed.

A disciplined tongue but prodigal brain,
Disheveled always and yet over-dressed,
As though he’s stowed in a steamer trunk chest
& travels by being thrown from a train.

How dare you claim we’ve lost a former zest!
Your passions are summarily suppressed.
I give you my heart, you fondle the breast.

We have two rooms reserved. May I request
Tonight, all positions be reassessed,
And my body by your body be caressed?


Husband — Fern Lake

Remember camping over winter break?
I told you weather would be no concern.
The frozen ground, like gravestones slept upon,
Harassed our shivering bodies till dawn.
The north wind chapped our skin like razor burn;
The feckless sun hid behind clouds opaque.

By graycast morn my wife refused to wake.
I left our tent to bid the light return
And break the burrows where my thoughts had gone.
As I considered ditching camp, a fawn
With black, unblinking eyes slinked through the fern
And bowed its naked head to taste the lake,

Its tremulous ears led me to conclude:
There’s no peace back home, nor joy in solitude.


Wife — Nothing Found

You’ve searched so long for something defective,
Uncertain of your journey’s objective.
Narrow minds are naturally selective;
Perhaps you need a woman’s perspective.

If you’ve nothing found, you’ve nothing to fix;
So drop your illogical bag of tricks.
This mix we picked; you mine and I your tics.
We built together a folly of ricks,
A castle measured to the king of pricks,
Protects against all but what it inflicts;
But comfort’s petty and weather predicts
There’s plenty of life yet in these old bricks.

I’ll refute your recent benediction
Thus: The fractured man frights at all friction.


Husband — An Afterthought

The future but an afterthought when young,
Presuming age and time should acquiesce,
We cultivated empathy, we sung
The mental enterprise, put off success,

Shopped secondhand clothes, spoke of elegance,
Hid drywall cracks beneath laminate seas,
Swapped seasonal crafts, whispered reverence,
While ambitions curled like calendar leaves.

Youth’s untimely schemes were a lockbox stowed,
While we rehearsed these incomplete vignettes
Reviews were published, our careers plateaued.
The outer world, proud misers, tallied debts;
Now claim the difference of favors owed
Between young man’s speech and old man’s regrets.


Wife — Lose The Day

You take your breakfast fully dressed
Then lose the day to idling dread,
Resign upon your rolltop bed,
And wake in boots to spite unrest.
You’re fond of buildings you have fled,
Soothed by noise and calmer stressed,
And though it’s never been addressed,
I do not trail; I’m leagues ahead.

The morning you and I were wed,
My mother asked about your mom,
It’s not like her to be uncouth,
I told her so and then I said
I didn’t know where you come from.
A lie was truer than the truth.


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