The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2015

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JUL-AUG 2015 Issue

Lazy Sonnets / Hurried Sonnets

These sonnets are tentative firsts in an attempted pact with this classic European form. It's clear to me at least that they don't quite believe in the form yet, but my creative writing students responded well to the structure, and they've challenged me to write 100 this year. Maybe 50 will end up being good enough to pass by the standards of the Judges of Craft. If so, they are from the forthcoming book, tentatively titled, The Homeless Adjunct Emergency Sonnets. The operative, dialogic, word is tentatively. In the meantime, they aspire to the high art of commonplace books. Forgive the traces of arrogant "wit."

Love and kindness to all; feel free to write.




Making Fun of Tragedy (#5)

You give me the word. You end my sentence.
First there’s a resume and then there’s marriage
But love ain’t no horse, crushing the carriage
And we do it for us if that makes sense
To liberate the past with each new glance
A seed of hug, without which the laughter
We can bring each other to, would after
Wards convulse constitutions, wake our trance
As if the hope to sleep together bleeds
More breezelike ecstasy than any fuck
To toddler tingle in toy pick up trucks
As if dancing can make wants out of needs
Serious play, and deadly as the sun
To fill the ocean to share with no gun







Sonnet #6

Of course slow isn’t always sad and fast
Isn’t always fun. And some people may
Hate music, while others would never say
It’s wallpaper, and if a law were passed
Banning soul music, they wouldn’t see it
As much of a loss. They have focus groups
For ears. But slow can soothe or make you sloop
And fast can rouse the anger you can’t sit
Still for till you sweat it out and you’re high
And dry enough to wake contemplation.
Yes, music can divide. “Turn off that station”
And corporations steal more of the pie.
Die on our feet? Live on our knees?
Guess they’re people like the birds and the bees







Sly Wonder

Where’s your individualistic crown?
Hanging out in suburbs, live with your mother
You’re never alone; “I” is another
When push comes to shove, what guard you’ll let down
Is the song of mice elf you thought we’d be-
Come, to come and go as our enlightened
Despot decrees, and not be frightened
Unless it frees. I feel G-d in my knees
Steep toes in ocean’s best dressed gala ball
When you say you’re in it but not of it
(don’t make earth whatever doesn’t fit)
though trees and seas bang their crowns gainst the wall
the seasons know exactly when to change
and sober truth knows strangeness is not strange







Culture Crash Sonnet #2 (after Scott Timberg)

We may not be called people anymore
But at least we got a case. In my case,
Our culture came first from Motown. I’d trace
To “I Want You Back.” The pro-DJ door
Shut, but left those who oozed human passion
Flocking to college, and left of the dial
Professors with a ground to stand & smile
Coz songs like “War” had fallen from fashion
But the teachers could narrowcast with ease
(so) many would be DJs got PhDs
to stop the spread of New Hist’ry’s disease
‘til algorithms brought us to our knees.
Human labor may not be obsolete
Lest MOOCs render conversation a tweet!







Sonnet 7

I am charmed by her jumpy unclear prose
Because she reminds us we’re important
That life’s a gift that shouldn’t be shortened
If we have any say. Her essay shows
How hearts are hungry for food that won’t come
But if we don’t go chasing waterfalls
And forgive ourselves for seeming so small
Then we could make a feast from all these crumbs
Despite the cops and injustice system—
The corporate media that fuels white fear
Pushing it with lies that turn a deaf ear
To Justice and to the constitution
As the rallying cry “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”
Becomes the racist joke: “Pants up, don’t loot.”







You Say The Death of Eric Garner’s Not About Race?

Selling untaxed cigs’s a capital crime?
Smokers of the world---even if you’re white—
Unite! I would have bought from Garner. Fight
High (sin) taxes! Why don’t Exxon do time
For Tax Evasion? Coz its lobbyists
Arm it against any bad cop’s choke hold?
Ah, We’re told. Don’t smoke! You wanna be old?
But the air ain’t cleared as long as it’s kissed
By the toxic products of fossil fuels
Or the legal pills that can help some cope
With the racist double standard. No hope
For justice when money can change the rules
So it indicts the guy with the camera
And can blame Garner’s death on his asthma.







Dialogue Sonnet 2

“White Values are held up as the role models
and many blacks, through no fault of their own,
lost contact with the wisdom of their own
(soulful) heritage, and came to swallow
the sword bling of individualism
of the sons of slave masters. Self-hating
house slaves become spokesmen.” “Good for ratings!
Gangsters are the face off corporatism!
Don’t matter what you say. Your beat’s bumpin
your dope grooves help us make a killing
though your mind is strong, your flesh is chilling
and your hands, feet and voice got nothin’
on our auto tune and beats-per-minute
machines. Revolution? We can spin it.”







Dialogue Sonnet 3

“What are you saying? I don’t understand.”
“Donate your heart.” “I like the way that sounds.”  
“Say I love you before you’re in the ground.”
“I love you.” “But are you at my command?”
“The honest answer’s always yes and no.”
“The heart’s streaming service, now on demand.
It’s already yours.” “All that’s left is a band
Of gold.” “I can’t afford one.” “Don’t you know
It’s just a song.” “You’re rehearsing regrets.
It could be fun to sleep in separate rooms
On the evening after our honeymoon.”
“Is that a vow?” “We haven’t started yet.”
“Will you lie for me?” “I’ll follow and lead
Find spirit in the choking room of need.”







Dialogue Sonnet #4

“And who would you call with your last goodbye?”
“Of course I’d call you, but pray not today
Because there’s so much else to do and say.”
“So much you forget sometimes to say hi
And if I hurt, it can still be gentle.”
“So much you forget the Corporate Person
We slave in.” “Waking him will worsen
Like the rock we pushed rolled back down the hill”
“Or a seesaw when you war is my peace.
In love, we touch beyond double vision.”
“If we could find shelter in this prison
that stole our property, called the police
to arrest the victim for being poor.”
“Don’t give me nothing. Just open the door.”







Arse Poetica (1)

A rich white judge is counting syllables
& they’ll be no beer in Georgia tonight.
Try telling the truth when the money’s tight
And it’s no use without glockenspiels
You need a collective, but you’ll settle
For a wedding without music. Bands cost
Too much. Seal your vows in words. Just what’s lost
Is dancing; what’s gained, an angry devil.
Guns talking to coffin screams, the legacy
Of image, thing & investment banking
It don’t mean a thing if no one’s skanking
Aren’t you tired of fighting to be free?
Paper was bad enough, book apps are worse.
Can a sonnet be an adequate hearse?







Chris Stroffolino

Chris Stroffolino has recently published reviews of poetry books by Maw Shein Win, Tureeda Mikell, Joanna Furhman and others in Konch and Entropy. A dialogue with Daniel Nester is forthcoming in Matter. He currently lives in Oakland.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2015

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