Cherry Orchard

A Miltonian Caudet Sonnet

by Thomas Davis

They crawled out from their canvas tent and stared
At stumps still littered through the opening
Their two man saw had cut into the spring-
Deep twilight made by woods so thick they dared
An axe to fell a wilderness that flared
Across so many miles no bird could wing
Its way to planted orchards blossoming
Into the dream the couple, logging, shared.

So tired she barely kept her head upright,
The woman started up the morning fire.
She sighed to see the stumps that made the field
Look strange inside the early morning light,
An emptiness surrounded by the choir
Of birds in trees where she in silence kneeled.

“The canopy is peeled
Away enough to let us plant the trees,”
He said. “Their blossoms will attract the bees.”

She looked and tried to tease
The cherry trees he saw into her mind,
But all she saw were stumps, work’s endless grind.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

15 responses to “Cherry Orchard

  1. Ina

    Wow 🙂 Miltonian Caudet… well it is a wonderful poem!

  2. A fine marriage of form and content. So often there is a real chasm between dream and actuality, between aspiration and achievement. “Work’s endless grind” indeed.

    • Ethel’s father and mother cleared the land for their farm near Wausau, Wisconsin. Since the land was densely wooded, I’ve always thought about the endless labor involved. Door County is famous for its cherry orchards in the Midwest. The forests here are as densely wooded as those around Ethel’s family’s old dairy farm. Human beings, with all of their weaknesses, are remarkable beings, but there is always intense emotions that rise out of impossible tasks.

      • Thank you for the extra background information, Tom. Yes, as you say people are remarkable; a bewildering mix of every sort of characteristic and ability.

  3. This is such a beautiful, visually rich, sonnet. The octet sets the scene clearly and yet almost surrealistically lures us into the forest and the dream. Then the sestet zooms in on the tired woman performing a simple ritual that takes on religious overtones as she kneels in silence over the fire, surrounded by the dawn chorus. The coda is wonderfully succinct and telling, as the man speaks and the woman says nothing. The idea of her trying to “tease” a vision into her mind is inspired. The perfectly observed rhyme scheme is unobtrusive and builds subtly to the climax of the poem. This is a sonnet form I particularly like for the greater breathing space the coda allows, rather than having to conclude in a couplet. It makes for a gentler, more poignant landing. Thank you for a marvelous poem, Thomas.

  4. For some reason this was difficult for me to write. It took weeks, I’m afraid, though mostly empty paper was simply scribbled with false starts. Ethel said it’s a good poem, but I am unsure of it. It seems like a mountain lion crouching behind an alligator juniper on a sandstone ledge to me, ready to pounce if given half a chance. Your comment, coming from a master of form, reassures me about a poem that I have been completely unsure of from its inception. I think there is meaning in it, but hopefully the reader is forced to construct the meaning rather than having it hit them in the face. I like the caudet sonnet form too, although I suspect few poets even know it exists.

  5. Ethel is right, I think. This poem is not fierce, however, like your imagined mountain lion. It is lithe, and quiet, and graceful—more like the doe that wandered through my backyard last week on its way to the nearby Androscoggin river. Don’t shoot your poem down, let it make its way peacefully and beautifully, as it will.

  6. Way out of my league, this one Tom, as are all the comments. I feel like a fish out of water but that doesnt stop me from enjoying the poem very much.
    On Cynthia’s reccomendation, I have ourchased the Book of Forms, so one day you never know. I might surprise you all! – in my dreams 😊

  7. I’d never heard of this form, Tom, and of course I shall now have to try it…especially as I’ve been given a masterclass in how to write it. I know you struggled with this one, and I can feel it in the writing somehow; the couple’s labours mirror your own on the page, giving the whole piece a pleasingly melancholy yet muscular feel – the poem has been wrung from you, in the same way that they have wrested clear ground from the woods. I find this piece really inspiring: it reminds me that writing poetry is (sometimes) hard, heavy, physical work – an ‘endless grind’ indeed – and that producing a good one requires commitment, stubbornness and the conviction that, eventually, it will be produce ‘blossom…that attracts the bees’. I agree with Cynthia about the coda: ending a sonnet with a couplet, while correct, can feel rather trite sometimes, and it’s the bit I always find most difficult. This coda leads us out of the poem gently and reflectively, giving the whole piece a very satisfying shape and cadence. It is a fine, fine poem, Tom, full of energy and drama, sadness and hope, wisdom and folly: in short, it’s life. I’ve read it several times now and see something new every time. Wonderful work. N.

  8. If you and Cynthia both think that it is good work that has got to be good enough for me, Nick. I am back into one of those periods where I have to work through poems. I never know why those periods come about, though I know the only way through them is to work at it and write.
    I was reading Milton when I came across this form, and it intrigued me. The idea of not ending at 14 lines while still producing a sonnet and using a coda to extend meaning and movement 6 more lines seemed interesting, so I produced this. I will be glad to see your effort. Your last sestina was nothing short of inspiring. Thanks so much for responding to this. It makes me a lot surer of the effort.

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