Santa Claus is Coming to Nicaea

Remember how the subtitle for this blog is ‘Politics and Poetry’?  And it’s basically all politics?  Well, this is not really *good* poetry, but what is a girl to do when someone complains about the lack of Christmas Carols celebrating Saint Nicholas (that’s Santa Claus to you) punching Arius (the heretic) at the Council of Nicaea?

I admit, the scansion is less than perfect.  It’s difficult to fit any really sound theology into lines of 5 or 7 syllables.  (And unsound theology has similar numbers of syllables to good theology, as it turns out.)  Also, technically, the bit about the Creed is ahistorical, because that happened *because* of Arius, not before him.  But I suspect that anyone who cares enough to nitpick… is exactly the right audience for this.

(I promise I’ll get back to the Victorian State Election results soon.)

Continue reading

Sonnet: Plato’s Cave

My friend Lea stated categorically that Plato’s Cave was not a sonnet.  So of course I had to prove otherwise…

A group of people chained up in a cave
Watch flick’ring shades, projected on a wall
And tell each other stories, bright and brave
Of creatures, places, objects, great and small.
You cannot blame them if they should mistake
In guessing what these shadows might reflect
These liberties imaginations take
When viewing through glass darkly, indirect.
And yet these shadows tell us of our world –
Or, to speak truly, what our world should be
If we could turn to see it and embrace
Its bright perfections, now in darkness veiled –
But with the bright lens of philosophy
We see what may be, mirrored, face to face.

Sonnet: Quadrivium (or, Horatio’s Studies)

This poem was written in response to Orson Scott Card’s decidedly homophobic retelling of Hamlet. It had not previously occurred to me that Horatio had this intense, unrequited love for Hamlet, but for some reason, I woke up the morning after reading the above article with the first quartet of this sonnet in my head, and had to write the rest.  And now, in my mind, I can’t read their relationship any other way.

I’m afraid I got a bit carried away with the whole Trivium / Quadrivium thing. Just in case there is anyone reading this who doesn’t know much more about this than me, students in medieval time were expected to learn the Trivium (Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric) before going to University, where they studied the Quadrivium (Geometry, Astronomy, Music, Arithmetic). And after that, you could study Philosophy. If you were good. 

Also, I got a bit carried away with my own cleverness, which you probably noticed.  But, actually, I do think it’s one of my better poetic efforts, which goes to show that even Orson Scott Card’s most horrifying statements have their uses…

No, scratch that.  Let’s blame this on Shakespeare.  He is a far superior source of inspiration.


Ah, Hamlet, Wittenberg seems far away,
For us the dons have rung their final bell.
I was your Trivium, when we did play;
You my Quadrivium, and I studied well:

I found in you geometry applied,
I knew each point and angle of your span.
I studied heavenly bodies at your side –
And learned well what a piece of work is man.

The sound of your slow breathing in the night
Was melody that only I could hear.
I counted as the sum of my delight
Each heartbeat, strong, iambic, by my ear.

Though heaven and earth hold greater things for thee
Thou’rt all my dreams, all my philosophy.

Acrostic: Nightmare

This is mostly an experiment, to see if I could make an acrostic and an ABCABCABC rhyme scheme work. 

No respite after work and weary day
I lie awake, awaiting morning’s light
Gazing with sleep-starved eyes into the deep
Hoping for kindly sleep, already prey
To whirling thoughts, to formless, foolish, fright.
Monstrosities pursue me – horrors creep,
And cruel disaster smiles to block my way.
Run down by my mind’s hounds, I dread the night
Exhaustion rides me – yet I fear to sleep.

Sonnet: His Mistress Replies to Sonnet 130

In fact, I wrote this back in 1995 or thereabouts, inspired by Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin and the character who wrote a sonnet a day ‘to keep his hand in’.  I tried taking psychology lecture notes in sonnet form for a while, but it didn’t help.  Anyway, this was one of my better efforts.  It’s a reply to this sonnet by Shakespeare.


My poet’s pen is sharper than nine swords;
I thought true love should muzzle unkind truth.
What right have you to mock me with these words?
For nor are you some godly-handsome youth!
It’s true I find your closing lines are sweet;
What woman would not wish to be called rare?
But wilful Will, admit that ’tis not meet
To slight the colour of your lady’s hair!
Your style of loving sonnet is unique;
A compliment, you tell me, to my wit.
Still, it’s not pleasant to be told I reek;
Good Will, will you not flatter me a bit?
Yet my goodwill you have, for this is true:
Imperfect like meets like when I meet you.

Sonnet: To Melbourne

City of many seasons, many moods
Of winter heatwaves and of summer floods
Who would change dull, fixed, seasonality
For your infinite, sweet, inconstancy?
No human art can ever guess your will
Nor nights nor dawns predict the day ahead
It tells us nothing if your skies are red
You are too whimsical for all our skill.
So, lovingly, your livery I don:
Sunscreen, umbrella, T-shirt, gumboots, coat –
And smile at forecasts, taking little note
As gaily you send hail… or wind… or sun.
Let others sigh for Climate’s ordered laws:
I’ll live my life under no skies but yours.

Sonnet: Blanket-Monster, or the Faithfulness of Cats

She stalks her foe on silent, night-black paws,
Eyes wide and black to catch each hint of light;
Alert ears, focused whiskers, sharpened claws;
Still. Waiting for her summons to the fight.
The slightest blanket-twitch and she is there!
Fierce, fearless, she protects against the beast.
Man’s ancient enemy caught unaware –
Quickly subdued by nimble paw – deceased.
For man’s best friend cannot defeat this foe;
Slow, gullible, he does not know its face.
And man, ever ungrateful, bellows ‘No!’
And in her loyal protection sees disgrace.
Yet faithfully her nightly watch she’ll keep:
Bast’s daughters in their duty do not sleep.

Sonnet: In Memoriam (a sonnet for Marla)

This is a wrong that nothing can amend:
Today, when all of life should lie ahead,
Replete with joys and challenges – instead
We say farewell to sister, daughter, friend
This is a wrong that nothing can redress.
What right have I, a stranger, to complain?
I did not know her. This is not my pain.
And yet her loss has made each of us less.
How dare death waste this life, turn morn to night?
It is a wrong that cannot be undone.
She was courageous, talented and bright –
This should be the beginning, not the end.
Five years she fought, and thought the battle won.
This is a wrong that nothing can amend.

Sonnet: Ista’s God

This sonnet was written for a character in Lois McMaster Bujold’s brilliant fantasy novel, Paladin of Souls.  It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous book, which I recommend to everyone and anyone.


The Gods’ great curses come to us as gifts
Of bitter hope, in answer to our prayer
Safer by far the silence of despair
Than damnèd sainthood, ruin that uplifts.
Let others try to mend what has been done
Your riddles are too cruel for my belief
They’ve left me empty, riddled with my grief
My cup is shattered. Lost. Leave me alone.
You, Bastard God, I am not yours to use.
The hostages your Mother had are gone:
I am bereft of husband, mother, son
Nothing to force my choice – yet I must choose.
And strangely, now, it seems I’ve found my place:
I’ll serve you well – and curse you to your face.