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.
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.
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.
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.
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.