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The Night

When most have fled the day and sought their beds
Pre-empting stealthy onset of the night;
When every corner holds its store of dread
And the courage my soul held has taken flight;
When my eyes can’t see past the evening veil
Nor the eerie shadows in this silent space,
And erstwhile buried woes return to hail
The troubled thoughts read on my haunted face.
When my wrongs press on me like the growing gloom
As unforgiving, bitter, hostile foe,
I know a friend will be there in the room –
The one to whom the anguished often go.
When grief has severed us from fellow folk
God clasps us to his chest and takes our yoke.

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Gary Borck is from the UK. He teaches in China and has been fully published in the Society of Classical Poets and Grand Little Things.


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18 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Gary,

    “I know a friend will be there in the room.”

    What a beautiful line, pointing to the true and living presence who stands with me through “the valley of the shadow . . .” and “the dark night of the soul.”

    Thank you for putting these thoughts and feelings into words and then sharing your poem with us.

    Reply
  2. Paul Freeman

    Nice one, Gary. I’ll just echo what James says.

    Thanks for a positive, feelgood read.

    Reply
  3. Norma Pain

    Thank you for this poem Gary. I am sure that many can relate to it’s sentiments. And a beautifully haunting picture of a moonlit night, from Evan.

    Reply
  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    “When my eyes can’t see past the evening veil”; “and erstwhile buried woes return to hail / the troubled thoughts read on my haunted face” are beautiful lines, as is the overall mood conveyed by this poem. I think you meant the last word to be “yoke”, instead of “yolk” (which is the yellow part of an egg). And I think lines 2, 4, and 8 would be better ended with a semicolon, since the period technically makes those lines into sentence fragments. The first twelve lines of your sonnet make a complex sentence with several — five, I think — subordinate clauses; a subordinate clause can’t stand alone as a sentence. (I believe they would be called adverb clauses, modifying the verb “know” in line 11; at least that’s how I would parse the grammar; perhaps Margaret Coats could say whether that’s accurate or not.) I like the structure very much, but believe different punctuation is needed.

    Reply
    • Gary Borck

      Thank you for your kind words, Cynthia.

      Yes, how embarrassing. How did I miss that? You are correct, I meant ‘yoke’ not ‘yolk’.

      Punctuation has never been my strongest suit. Thank you for pointing out the problems. Should I contact Evan directly for corrections?

      Reply
  5. Gary Borck

    It’s a pleasure, Allegra. It makes a change for me. A lot of my poems do not have such a positive sentiment

    Reply
  6. Mary Gardner

    Gary, you expressed perfectly the disquiet that sometimes takes hold during the night, and the rest that comes after giving it over to God.

    Reply
    • Gary Borck

      Yes, Mary, isn’t it great to know that whatever the burden our supreme helper is always there for us?

      Reply
  7. Margaret Coats

    Gary, I’m glad finally to read this lovely and expertly constructed sonnet. You illustrate very well what the sonnet critic John Fuller says about the English sonnet: the turn comes only with the couplet. It is quite an accomplishment to have made the previous twelve lines a single sentence with four complex and compound “when” clauses preceding the main (and only independent) clause that begins, “I know” (itself followed by an appositive adjectival clause describing the friend). You have chosen beautiful images and made careful word choices. The overall weight of the words, phrases, and clauses helps create the sense of how oppressively thoughts can spin out after dark.

    All of your grammar is correct; only the punctuation needs improvement, as Cynthia Erlandson noted. The sentence I just wrote shows how a semi-colon should be used in prose. BOTH clauses joined by it need to be independent clauses that could stand as sentences on their own. This is NOT the case for any of your “when” clauses, which are adverbial as Cynthia thought. In poetry there are two acceptable practices. Because your “when” clauses are not independent, I prefer to end each of them with a comma (that would be lines 2, 4, and 8). The one ending in line 10 does end with a comma, as it should because the main clause comes next. You could place a semi-colon at the ends of lines 2, 4, and 8 because in poetry, authors often wish to make their thought clearer by marking off significant portions of the poem with something more emphatic than a comma. This is not the best usage, but it has come to be accepted. You still have an incorrect period at the end of line 8. As Cynthia pointed out, this renders your first 8 lines an incomplete sentence.

    A comma at the end of the line 13 “when” clause is also a good idea. It corresponds to the definite pause you make in your reading, between “folk” and “God.” And I would place one at the end of line 1, again corresponding to the comma-length pause you make there in your most effective reading. You do that because “pre-empting” does not modify the previous word “beds,” but rather refers back to “most,” and thus needs to be separated from “beds.”

    That was a lot of technical talk! Please rest assured that I enjoyed both your poem and your reading of it.

    Reply
    • Gary Borck

      Dear Margaret,

      Your words are very encouraging and kind, and I am so glad that you enjoyed my poem.

      You have me intrigued with your thoughts regarding the turn in my sonnet. My intention was to start the turn in the final quatrain, which I believed to be the traditional place where the change of direction occurs in a sonnet. Note, I mean start the turn, not bring it to its conclusion.

      Note the following quotes from Litcharts, from their analysis of the sonnet form:

      https://www.litcharts.com/literary-devices-and-terms/sonnet

      “The turn is sometimes also called a “volta” (the Italian word for turn), and it usually comes at the very beginning of the sestet, in the sonnet’s ninth line”

      “The sestet is concerned with resolving the problem or question, and it almost always contains a “turn,” which signals a shift in the poem’s focus from problem to resolution.”

      “In the English sonnet, the turn typically occurs in the third quatrain, but William Shakespeare broke from this rule by frequently situating the turn in the final couplet of his sonnets.”

      I wasn’t aware until you mentioned it, that Fuller believed the turn should occur in the final couplet.
      I believe the turn in my poem starts in the third quatrain with “I know a friend will be there in the room”. Up until then my poem admittedly, had been all doom and gloom, expressing nothing positive with no hint of hope, so the turn begins before the final couplet, in the eleventh line.

      I’m now stimulated to look anew at Shakespeare’s sonnets and those of others to see where turns start to occur, (if they do at all, because I believe not all sonnets have turns in them).

      The time you took with your response to my poem is much appreciated, very encouraging and stimulating, Margaret, including the great advice regarding the punctuation.

      Thank you.

      Reply

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