Friday, March 26, 2021

Yesterday, I answered the phone, and there was Teresa, asking, Can I publish your Accident Sonnets in my Friday newsletter, because I am celebrating Dante's birthday this week, and I think your sonnets are like a journey from Inferno to Paradiso?

And I said, Yes, of course, and Do you really think so? and Gosh, I never thought of that, and Oh.

And ever since then I have been thinking to myself, Someone on this earth thinks that my poems belong in the same sentence as Dante's.

If you subscribe to Teresa's poetry letter, you'll see what she has to say about Dante and about my poems. But if you don't, you can still have the poems.

Accident Sonnet #1

 So we went shopping

for skates because

ponds are big and we

can skate with our masks

off and we can breathe

the air without terror,

and because the sound

of blades slicing ice is

the ring of steel against

stone, of might against

Might, and because we

are afraid of dying

and so tired, so very,

very tired.

Accident Sonnet #2


the sign said it said

nothing it said nothing

could save us now now

nothing could save us

satan has us in his

clutches satan has us

the sign said in his

clutches the man

holding the sign stood

at the corner he stood

holding a sign that said

satan and the cars 

the cars they did not 




Accident Sonnet #3


Behold these images

of summer pasted into

the catalog I found stuck

to the bottom of the recycling

bin. I flip through the stained

pages but cannot recall what it

feels like to be bare-armed and warm,

smiling at strangers clustered on a

dock at sunset, chattering about

dogs and children, laughing

into the eyes of a beautiful

man, brushing sand from

his feet, cupping his

unmarked face. 


Accident Sonnet #4


I tried on a new linen shirt and then

spilled tea on it. I put on my old


clogs and staggered down the stairs. I

stuffed work pants into the washing


machine but forgot to hang them up.

I boiled six eggs and they


cracked. I let the cat in and I

let the cat out.


Three seagulls circled above me. Their wings

cut the sky like harrows.


It’s one

of those days

when everything

is tinged with blue.



 Accident Sonnet #5


I thought for a change

I would write a happy poem and

Look! Here I am, writing

about the conversation I just


had with my son.

We were talking about the cat

and we were using our special

funny talk-like-the-cat voices


which is a thing we do

in this family, we are very

committed to comic relief,


and it was sweet because,

for, like, five minutes we

forgot to be scared.



Accident Sonnet #6


i’ve been reading such

hard books lately 

proust and byron it’s

like eating nothing

but brown rice

and kale and


finally today i said

the hell with it and

lay on the couch

under a blanket

and read about


lord peter wimsey being judgy about

claret while stalking a murderer and

for some reason this was better but why



Accident Sonnet #7


It’s Saturday morning in early January 

in Maine and the faraway sun is grinning

behind a scrim of cloud and I should

be outside to say hello, and I meant


to be outside by now, but somehow I am

still sitting here on the couch doom-

scrolling the news because I’ve realized that

half the insurrectionists look like


my middle-aged cousins and the other

half look like my ex-students, like the kids

my own kids went to school with. What’s


the right thing to do with recognition

software that lives inside my own life?

I am a crime.

Accident Sonnet #8


In my son’s room which used to be my study until 

Covid made him move back in with his parents

music is trickling from beneath the door, something

sad and twangy, and I am lying on my bed

trying to write poems because I don’t have a room

of my own anymore, don’t even have a desk, don’t

even have a chair, and as I lie here on this mattress


on the floor and watch a no-sun afternoon

grimace through the window my son is lying

on his mattress on his floor and trying to write

a statement about why he wants to

go to divinity school, and I’m thinking why

don’t we have any real beds? and his music sighs

under my door like every hard answer.



Accident Sonnet #9


I’m not looking out the window

but I can hear the street the

neighbor kids shrieking at

each other and now their

boots pounding up and down

the sidewalk they’re shooting

nerf arrows at each other again

or playing some inscrutable

game involving a hula hoop

and a character they call Mr.

Orange and before long

somebody’s going to be

crying and I bet

that will be me



Accident Sonnet #10


Seven years ago I lived in the woods

and seven months ago I was amazed

by a white peony in my city garden

and seven weeks ago I almost caught

the house on fire as I was roasting

a turkey and seven days ago I witnessed

a semi-failed putsch in the capitol of my


woebegone nation and seven hours ago

I was lying on the floor trying to recover

from an abs class and seven minutes ago I

had not yet written this poem and seven seconds

ago I thought this poem was bad and when I was

seven I climbed into the notch of a maple tree 

and wondered who on this earth could I possibly be. 



Accident Sonnet #11


Saturday morning and it’s pouring rain

in Maine where it’s not supposed to rain

in January and I am sitting in a corner

of my couch squinching my mind away

from bad news trying to pretend that today

will be super-relaxing so calm and productive

and probably I’ll look younger also.


Meanwhile the clock ticks and the furnace

hums and the washing machine sloshes

and the twenty-first century slips and slides

along its dented rails and you: What are you

doing right now? Are you gazing through

a windowpane into the sodden dark? Are you

yearning over the strangeness of love?



 Accident Sonnet #12


I’ve been dreaming lately,

dreaming about birds,

about watching birds scatter

like spiders through

the rooms of my house;

dreaming that my older

son is younger than

my younger son;

dreaming that I

mistakenly married

my junior prom date;

and when I wake up

I am shocked and What

the hell, Time?



 Accident Sonnet #13


Two weeks ago I wrote my first acci-

dent sonnet, it was the day the yahoos

stormed the capitol and our future felt

dead and my son was watching, of all 

things, Coriolanus on TV, and, lord,

how do we acquaint ourselves with terror?


And then yesterday one president was

airlifted into oblivion and the other

got to sit down at the big desk and start

erasing evil and I was too afraid to watch

in case something exploded but the only

thing that exploded was relief, I felt

like a milkweed pod, I felt

like a busted dam.



 Sonnet 14: Accidental Hymn 


And here I am again, praise-singing

hot cornbread and the poems of Keats

and the blisters on my hands, the ones

that sprout after a day spent shoveling


semi-frozen April soil because I am so

ecstatic about spring, about the shriek

of the crested woodpecker dancing from tree to tree,

about the radish seeds I’m dropping into the wet


black earth, about our planet rolling so swiftly

on its axis: and now the man I’ve adored

for thirty years is getting out of his pickup after a long 


day of hammering and here I am again, running up

to him and crying The crocuses are up! and here he is

laughing, saying Show me.

[first published in Teresa Carson's poetry newsletter, La poesia della settimana, March 27, 2021]  


Carlene Gadapee said...

That last poem made me cry, it's so beautiful.

Thank you for the gifts of sharing your work, your words, and your self.

Ruth said...

How perfectly splendiferous

nancy said...

Today we had our first official Open Mic in my totally dysfunctional Creative Writing class, and nothing exploded except a few hearts : )