Tag Archives: Spenserian Sonnet

In the Unsettled Land of Dreams

All Things That Matter Press has sent me the first edit of my new novel, In the Unsettled Land of Dreams.  I am working hard on the edit now, but it is slow.  One of the surprises is how long it is going to be in print.  I guess this is going to be one of the more significant works I produce in my lifetime, although I always am wracked by doubt about my longer works.

I thought I’d celebrate, though, by posting the first sonnet and paragraph in the novel.  Each chapter is prefaced by a sonnet and followed by text.  The book starts in Mingo Swamp in Missouri’s boot-heel country.  Joshua, a major character in the novel, is faced with one of several decisions that he will face on a day that promises to change his life forever.

Inflamed Imagining

A Spenserian Sonnet

Inside the swamp beside a cypress tree
(White herons in the water, bullfrog croaks
A symphony as dusk, as stealthily
As cat’s feet stalking small, shy birds, evokes
The coming night) the Preacher slowly stokes
The fire blazed in his heart and starts to sing
Songs powerful enough to loosen yokes
White masters forged through endless menacing.

The words he used burned deep; he felt their sting
And saw his spirit fire alive in eyes
Awake to dreams, inflamed imagining
Of days spent free beneath glad years of skies.

The darkness deepened underneath the tree.
He’d preach, he thought, then, later on, they’d flee.

Joshua did not want to go with his mother when she came down from Master Bulrush’s big house after dark where she was the Mistresses’ servant. He had gone through another miserable day. His stubbornness, born out of unfocused resentment, was always getting him into trouble. He couldn’t seem to want to protect himself.

The Overseer, an aging black man called Silver Coats who had terrorized Bulrush plantation slaves for years, had struck out with his whip and cut a shirt already threadbare twice that day. The last time the whip’s cord had cut him, leaving a long, red whelp crusted with blood on his skin. The deep, painful cuts were made on purpose. The Overseer was an expert at how deep his whip bit flesh.

Joshua, small for his age, mostly didn’t cry when the big black man, gray haired, light skinned, with a mean streak and perpetually snarling face, whipped him. He was fourteen years old and had long ago decided he was not going to cry every time the Overseer, or Master, brought out one of the whips hung in a small lean-to shed attached to the plantation’s red barn.

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A Force Inside the Dream of God

by Thomas Davis

Their stomachs ached, they felt ice cold, their eyes
Sank back into their sockets. Still, worn out,
They kept on moving, moving. When the skies
Were dark enough, they got up, brushed the flies,
Mosquitos off, shoved fear and gnawing doubt
Into their bellies’ emptiness, and ran, their route
Through hills and fields, past roads, an exercise
In dreams that live on while the body dies.

But as they moved, the Preacher was a force
Inside the dream of God, a man possessed.
He would not fade. His tongue, without remorse,
Whipped legs too tired to move to movement, stressed
Them all until a blessed miracle
Made life and dreams again seem possible.

Note: I have been posting two of these sonnets at a time. Since I am in the rewriting mode of the novel at the moment, going backward unfortunately, I am afraid I’ll run out of postings for the series before I get to a place where I can keep up the sequence. This is the fifth sonnet I’ve posted from the series. I am working on a novel with a sonnet at the beginning of each chapter. The sonnets themselves are a mixture of forms. This particular sonnet is a Spenserian sonnet.

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Four Black Swans

a Spenserian Sonnet

by Thomas Davis

Four swans, crow-feather black, fly low above
The lake’s ice, white with tints of apple green.
Upon a red roof ravens, croaking of
The way the blue-black of their feather’s sheen
Swift shadows on the snow’s white shining, preen
Into a circle, stirring whispering winds
That cause white wisps to pirouette, careen
Across the fields as daylight slowly ends.

A black cat tops a hill and then descends
Into a field where fourteen cats have made
A ring beneath a full moon; each pretends
The others aren’t as eyes glow green as jade —

The wind blows cold; the silver moon is bright
As black swans fly into the spell-bound night.

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The Raven’s Croak

by Thomas Davis
A Spenserian Sonnet

Hunched down beside a woodpile, ebony,
In shadows from the cedars overhead,
The raven blinked black eyes, its dishabille
Of feathers rustling, stirring up a dread
So dark it seemed as if it called up from the dead
White wisps of spirits buried in the snow.
The raven hopped on top the woodpile, head
Cocked, moving like a dancer in a show,
A shadows’ shadow pantomiming woe.

Dawn’s darkness deepened as the raven leaped
Into the sky and hovered as the glow
Of blood-light saturated earth and seeped
Into the raven’s eyes, it’s dance undone
Until its beak croaked out the blazing sun.

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