Sonnets 22 and 23

by Thomas Davis


At Newport Beach the sun was shining Spring.
Offshore, out in Lake Michigan, clouds brewed
in swelling rolls lit white by sun, a multitude
of giants in a day so still the wings
of seabirds hardly moved as, white, they swing
above the lake into the shore, the mood
created like perfection, interlude
between the storms our selves are apt to sing.

Our daughters swim against the waves and laugh.
Our son, absorbed, collects a pile of stones
and makes a wall on sand, an autograph
soon lost to water and the wave’s white foam.
Time freezes in our minds, but arrows past,
though we would make our times together last.


Time turns into a cruelty of hours.
The battle fought to find a snatch of hope,
our conversations as we tried to grope
with decades shrunk to days, and youthful powers
reduced to helplessness and empty hours,
our words of love as time, the misanthrope,
snatched from the two of us the skills we need to cope
with dread and loss and cancer’s awful power.

He doesn’t wake. He doesn’t speak. His breath
is ragged; coughing rattles in his chest.
His face is yellow, thin; it hints of death
to come–so suffering will end with rest.
And as we wait, time crawls where once it flew,
as mutable as good times we once knew.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

17 responses to “Sonnets 22 and 23

  1. Anna Mark

    The shifts in these two sonnets are raw and evocative…shattering…as cancer is (and I say this because I know it myself). That pile of stones “lost to water and the wave’s white foam…” says so much to me — how swiftly our structures and efforts vanish…I think hope endures, and so does love.

  2. What a nice contrast in this pair of poems! The first optimistic and so detailed in construction and word choice — the second one so dark and more informal. To very different styles but both very well written!

  3. You have two beautiful and very moving sonnets here.

  4. Thomas, the earlier time, full of joy and life, gives way to the raw truth of cancer and loss. Your expert verse conveys your pain to the reader… but only a part of it. As sharp as the grief I feel in reading, I know it is small next to yours, who lived it.

  5. I don’t know how you are able to make such beauty from much horror-ed sadness. My heart aches for you, even as I honor your brilliance.

    • Caddo, Thank you for your always welcome presence. I wrote all of these sonnets as Kevin was dying of cancer in Poughkeepsie, NY. They helped me deal with the whole situation there. It was a little over a year ago, so Ethel and I are getting along, but I don’t think you leave loss behind like a silk handkerchief left on a chair. It continues with you even as time goes on and you get on with life. You have a wonderful spirit.

  6. Both beautiful and sorrowful – I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through. A year isn’t much time, so I know the grief is still very fresh. My heart aches for you and Ethel…. may you find comfort in the love that never ends.

  7. Thank you for visiting my site and especially for your encouraging comments about the moon and flamboyant poems. I’m also grateful for following you back to your site. These are a beautiful pair of poems growing from deep feelings. I cannot claim to understand this depth of loss, but I’m glad to read these sonnets of the heart.

  8. an autograph
    soon lost to water and the wave’s white foam.

    Yes, very good both of them – feel very sad about your loss. Reminds us all i suppose of the mystery and fragility of life.

  9. 22 exhaults & 23 laments…

  10. Beautifully constructed and expressed – I can identify with ‘Time, the misanthrope’. A lot of people kick against metrical forms, but I know when I write sonnets, the constraints help to crystallise my ideas and ensure every single word earns its place – these poems are so powerful precisely because they’re tight, considered and crafted. I’ve read them over and over and I think they’re great – what a wonderful tribute to someone who was clearly very, very special.

    • The metrical forms, if done well, can help the writer deal with the craft while looking at emotional content that would, in free verse, be difficult to handle. Thanks for a comment from a really good poet.

  11. These poems are both very moving.

    And because they so very clearly come straight from the heart, very, very powerful.

    I agree with you Tom – poetry can help us come to terms with things in a way nothing else can.

    Thank you for having the courage to share your pain with us.


  12. The ebb and flow of life expertly expressed in the contrast of beautiful and terrible memories. So awful to watch someone we love die in this way.

  13. zevstar

    sorrowful poem well written

  14. Loved the line ‘between the storms our selves are apt to sing’ sums up the painful experience whilst allowing a glimmer of hope through belief. Very powerful. I can’t even imagine the pain you have been through, but the sonnets share some of the agony.

  15. belladonna23

    amazing pieces, worthy of being published. My sonnets are not always as great, sometimes i struggle with the iambic pentameter, because I am still a young writer. The one that I did get published, I had actually messed up on the meter :p
    I can reflect on the two scenes, it makes me remember old memories of my step mother (who raised me, and who I loved very much) and the last years before she gave in to her illness.

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