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A Slice

from a sonnet by Eleanor Alexander

For me, my friends, no graveside vigil keep,
With gnashing teeth and sodden handkerchief
And grievous howls of outraged disbelief
That I, so virile once, am six feet deep.
Console yourselves that he is but asleep,
This life below a mere aperitif,
Perfunctory and bittersweet and brief,
To heaven’s endless banquet. Why, then, weep?

Rather, for all the years I may survive,
Show, in wide, obsequious smiles, your teeth,
To pleasure me with gifts and favours strive
(More efficacious, far, than graveside wreath!).
If, in slavishness, you deep-enough dive,
You may get a slice of what I bequeath.

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A Bargain

from a sonnet by Philip Sidney

I have my true-love’s heart and she has mine
By just exchange, one for the other, given:
There never was a bargain better driven
(Perhaps, indeed, by impetus divine?
How else achieve so perfect a design?).
Not that, until we met, we hadn’t thriven,
Yet, vertically challenged, she had striven
(What carpenter considers four-feet-nine?)

To reach her upper shelves. And, what of I,
Who bear no such diminishment in height?
Though, once, I strove to bake a chicken pie
It didn’t justify a second bite;
Now, I retrieve the platters from on high
And leave her to supply our appetite.

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Sauce for the Goose

From a John Barlas sonnet. William Wilson (an 18th century Pennsylvanian) lived his last nineteen years in a cave, feeding himself by making millstones and otherwise avoiding all contact with humanity.

When in the lonely stillness of the grave
I merge into the clay from which I came,
This is my petition: respect the name
I gave you; do not stoop to misbehave
As many widows have, whom Eros drave,
With palpitating heart and loins aflame,
Into the ever-waiting arms of shame
In the shape of some dissipated knave!

—What’s that you say about sauce for the goose?
If I understand you, should you die first
I must consign my manhood to disuse,
By some vow of immaculacy cursed
To live like William Wilson, a recluse?
Woman, of termagants you are the worst!

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Peter Austin is a retired Professor of English who lives in Toronto with his younger two daughters.


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9 Responses

  1. jd

    Enjoyed all three of these, Mr. Austin, and
    was not at all surprised to learn that you
    were a Professor of English.

    Reply
  2. Ryan Watch

    Delectable and delightful reads for my avid mind Mr. Austin! Your diverting verses have made my day.

    Reply
  3. Gail

    I particularly liked the second–I’ve noticed throughout life that many diminutive women marry giants with practical skills. I always wonder who initiated the relationship.

    The other two reminded me of something else I’ve noticed–many seem to want to direct the behavior of the living from beyond the grave. I can only think what a blessing it must be to outlive someone so domineering.

    Reply
  4. Daniel Kemper

    Thank you for these! I particularly liked the cunning last two lines of “A Slice”.

    Reply
  5. C.B. Anderson

    There’s no fat in your sonnets, Jack — I mean, Peter. These are wryly twisted pieces.

    Reply
  6. Cynthia Erlandson

    I vote for aperitif/handkerchief/disbelief as one of the top ten (or two?) marvelous rhymes of the year! Delightful poems with a lively humorous touch!

    Reply
  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I love the wisdom, wit and wonder of this eloquent and mellifluous trio of sonnets. The archaic air adds to the hilarity. Great stuff! Thank you!

    Reply

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