A sonnet from Thomas Davis
Inside the barn the memories of war
As horses ate their hay and cows were fed:
Inside three men, one white, two black, the roar
Of cannon, sight and sound of men that bled
Their lives out as the living and the dead
Were showered with hot, splintering fusillades
Flung in the wave-tossed night from hell, the dread
Of battle dancing as the barricades
Of what you were in being human fades
Into the chaos burning through the night.
The Preacher frowned: “Destruction serenades
Our hearts against our spirit’s holy light,”
He said. The others nodded. Each had prayed
To find the place where joy and hope was made.
Note: This is the next in the series of sonnets written as heads of chapter for a novel I am trying to work on. I have published several of these sonnets with previous posts. The sequence presents insights into an escape of slaves to Washington Island in Wisconsin before the Civil War. There was a small community of blacks on the island just before passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
9 responses to “Inside the Place where Joy and Hope is Made”
I like the concept of a sonnet to head each chapter, Tom. And of course they may be read independently, as here. Good luck with the novel.
I’m working on it, John, but it’s coming slow. I sometimes wonder if I can write at all.
Inside the place…where each had prayed…to find the place…where hope and joy is made…
Inside the barn…inside three men [or is it ‘Inside, three men’?]
Well, you can be inside and you can be inside. Inside the barn is not the same as being inside the man—or is it? We’re not talking spleen and kidneys here. Where is inside the man?
We then switch to a war—unidentified. To me it feels like the Great War, but the timing is wrong. Same for the Civil War. Is this mythical war. Or a generic war? Or a war in the mind? Wallace Stevens: ‘Soldier there is a war between the mind and sky.’
Destruction serenades our hearts against the spirit’s holy light. That destruction serenades anything is mind boggling in a way. But this sonnet is about love, isn’t it?
To find the place where hope is made.
In the novel, Jim, the Preacher and two other characters, the white man being part of the underground railroad, were at the Battle of Lake Erie, War of 1812. One of the many interesting aspects of that war was that black and white sailors served together under Commodore Perry more or less as equals. Many, though not all, ended up with military pensions and several gained military honors as a result of a pivotal victory. The true story the novel and the sonnets is based on is about a black fisherman’s village on Washington Island not far from where Ethel and I now live who mysteriously disappeared after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 and were never heard from again. Thanks for coming here and reading these. I value your comments. I’ve got to get back to your site. I’ve been working a lot, though, mostly on projects for the Turtle Mountain Anishinabe people in North Dakota and the Navajo in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. I hope you are well.
Thomas, your gift for story telling (fictional or non-fiction) must be right up there with the very best in American literature. And to be able to express some of it in sonnet form is remarkable as it flows flawlessly (in my opinion)!
Ah Betty, you are way too kind. We’ll see how the novel and sonnets come out. I just finished the second try at Chapters 1 – 3. I’m happier with them now than I was with the first draft. We’ll see as I slog onward and onward and onward. You’re not a bad storyteller yourself, you know.
This is a fantastic sonnet Tom. I’ve read it aloud several times to feel the flow and it rolls off the tongue gloriously. I don’t know about your novel, and good luck with it, but this is truly a wonderful stand-alone as well.
Thanks so much glendadoodle. The novel and the sonnets are coming, but slowly slowly. I’ll visit your site shortly.
You bring the scene in the barn to vivid life amid a wider scene of carnage and madness, Not to mention the skill portrayed here.