Sonnet I

Our arms are leaves stretched out; our thoughts can bloom
The grandest only when we crowd out those
Who have been planted in a place of doom—
Perhaps for something only Heaven knows.

While growing up and finding our own way
In life, each cannot help but cast a mark
Of dread beneath a form that robs the day
From those we leave forgotten, low and dark.

But you and I, together we’ve grown up;
Our shadows constant trouble for each other
That’s made us stronger when they would disrupt
The lazy impulse that can slowly smother.

Our twining stems have made our shades our good
And show the Planter truly understood.



Sonnet II

inspired by the American monarchy movement

I love the king—a human figure tied
From coast to coast while giant turning gears
Compel him with their force to choose the side
That to the soundest principles adheres.

His fortunes are the nation’s—he must act
To keep the land both strong and well preserved,
For it will be inherited, in fact;
His son will strive to make it well deserved.

They must directly through their bodies try
Reflecting in themselves God’s holy image.
Oh sure, they’ll sink but also they’ll rise high
And save us from the idiocrats who pillage

From our pockets for the latest trend—
True greatness isn’t what vagabonds intend.



Sonnet III

Your body I behold; I feel, I yearn
To hold it close until I know its warmth
Which from afar already I discern
Is maddening perfection that is worth

Whatever it will take to be with you,
To make us one in tantalizing joy,
In harmony that whispers sweet and true.
I must try any trick or subtle ploy…

And now I have you. All I want is mine
Beneath your clothes and further, deeper still.
We are together and you’re… mostly fine:
You have a rash, your neck and joints feel ill.

The sicker that you feel the more I grow;
But don’t you love me—the tick you found below?



Evan Mantyk teaches literature and history in New York and is Editor of the Society of Classical Poets.

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18 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    These are three wonderful sonnets that rise above the common love poems to mesmerize.

    Sonnet I: This lays out the comparison between mortals and a plant capable of providing “shade,” which I regard as both privacy and protection when together and interlaced, as planned by a superior being.

    Sonnet II: This sonnet portrays a “king,” one who will lead many to guess who that might be. I have my own opinion and am particularly taken with the thought that his son will strive to make his efforts “well deserved.” I love the line, “And save us from the idiocrats who pillage from our pockets…” “Idiocrats” has now been added to my vocabulary.

    Sonnet III: I was at first lulled to sleep thinking about love and then the twist at the end jolted my mind.

    I am so glad to see love sonnets posted on this site! I look forward to more of them. Each one of yours, Evan, has a unique concept and voice that make them great reading.

    • Evan Mantyk

      Thank you, Roy.

      The shades of the plants are all of the people we can’t help but annoy and upset in life with the way we choose to live our lives, whether by our social, aesthetic, and political opinions, or even by filling up a limited number of roles that are available and sparking jealousy and contempt.

      I did not actually have a particular person in mind when I was writing Sonnet II. I was researching monarchy while teaching about Japan’s monarchy and came upon people in the United States actually taking the idea of a monarchy in America seriously, which I found both bizarre and deeply fascinating. There is a serious United Monarchist Party of America and they have this video posted on their website with an interview of Harvard professor Eric Nelson by the Constitution Center. It is fascinating and I think makes a pretty good basis for the idea of a constitutional monarchy in the United States. It also cleared up some issues that had puzzled me about the motivations for the founding of the USA:



  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Sonnet III is like a mantrap hidden in the underbrush — the reader isn’t caught until the very last step. The first three quatrains are erotically tinged, with hints of a planned seduction: “your body,” “to hold it close,” “whatever it will take,” “subtle ploy,””beneath your clothes,” “deeper still.” Frankly, on the first reading I thought it was going to end with an amorous climax.

    But then — it’s just a tick! The speaker in this monologue is a parasitical bug. What a letdown for the salaciously minded.

    • Evan Mantyk

      Thank you, Joe. Well, hopefully for even the salaciously minded it elicited a laugh.

      Unfortunately, it is a true story, so I hope I can turn my pain into others’ pleasure.

  3. Rohini Sunderam

    All the sonnets are perfect and delightful! But I have to agree the cleverness and humour of Sonnet III I burst out laughing. Unexpected and so perfectly wrought.

  4. Brian A Yapko

    Each one of these sonnets is a delight, Evan, laced with unexpected images and language. Yes, that third sonnet is wonderfully unexpected and funny (and may even have something to say about some parasitic human relationships); but I think the first sonnet with its botanical imagery is my favorite. You’ve especially captured something quite deep in the following lines: “Our shadows constant trouble for each other/That’s made us stronger since they did disrupt/The lazy impulse that can slowly smother.” The metaphor is a powerful one about how relationships, even when challenging, can potentially be a springboard to greater growth and achievement.

    • Evan Mantyk

      Brian, I’m glad this came across. This one is my personal favorite too, but I wasn’t sure if the many years of having a marital relationship came through, and how that is both suffering and good. Looks like you got it.

  5. Nathan McKee

    All very creative, Evan, thanks for sharing. Re: Sonnet I, the Planter’s wisdom is always shown given enough time, even if in the near-term all seems bleak, senseless or random. Thanks for touching on this truth.

  6. Margaret Coats

    The tick sonnet is the easiest of these to comprehend, and it is really funny–unlike Donne’s “Flea,” the obvious comparison (and one of the most anthologized poems in English). I might say it’s simpler, with an insect speaker, because even when the speaker makes an appeal for love, that’s just hilarious. Donne appeals for sex, lying to the lady by saying she will lose no more honor than she lost in the fleabite (a patent untruth). But as she does not hesitate to kill the flea despite his protest, we can say that your speaker, Evan, has more honor and honesty than Donne’s.

  7. Monika Cooper

    Sonnet I: seems to me a marriage sonnet; the shadows or faults of the spouses cause constant trouble for each other but the relationship, the “us,” grows stronger through the struggle. Shadows as “marks” the trees can’t help but cast: thought-provoking phrase. I think of Milosz: “what has no shadow has no strength to live.” Also there is something here of how beautiful and fitting it can be to marry young: so that husband and wife in a sense grow up together.

    Sonnet II: the king figure almost seems like a Gulliver, “tied from coast to coast,” like a sacrificial giant, a living sacrifice, a figure that unites a continent at great personal cost. I too find the allusion to the king’s son compelling. The hereditary nature of traditional monarchy is a huge part of its appeal; both the family and the individual are uniquely honored in this form of government. Some beautiful ideas in that American monarchy movement. I will look closer.

    Sonnet II: what a bane ticks are. I wrote a couple short poems about them myself recently. Sorry to read above that it’s a true story; I hope this didn’t happen to you!

  8. Alex Wolff

    Your technical dexterity never fails to shine. I’ll upload these to Facebook and Twitter tomorrow. Expect an email soon!

  9. Shaun C. Duncan

    All three are great, but I particularly enjoyed the first sonnet. As someone who married young and has remained married for over twenty years so far, it expresses something I would struggle to put into words if asked to. The third is delightful in its somewhate unfortunate surprise. Like Margaret, I was immediately reminded of Donne and assumed it was a satire on his piece. I’m sorry to hear it was based on a true story, but at least you got a great poem out of the experience!

  10. Yael

    These are all very nice poems, and the third one really amazed me. I never thought of tick love before! But why not?


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