Monday, December 25, 2006

Poetry Break: "Christmas Ringing '93"

Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (1978)
(Image from Wikipedia)

On Christmas Eve of 1993, I proposed to Sun-Ae in Rome in a fine Italian restaurant just down the street from the Church of Santa Maria Maggiori, which I mentioned in a post over a year ago.

At the time, our conversations were usually in German, for that was the language in which we had met, so my report of over a year ago and my poem below do not map perfectly onto one another. You can also blame my poor memory ... maybe that long "senior moment" that I learned about just two days ago.

At any rate, here it is, my Christmas sonnet, written last Friday as a gift for my wife in our current penurious times because she told me, "Write me a poem for a Christmas present this year":
Christmas Ringing '93

Recall that time in Rome when you said, "Oh!
It's lovely," but just held it in your hand
As though to keep it there a wedding banned,
And said: "I keep the ring if I say, 'No'?"

At which, I smiled, but it was I said, "No.
You want the ring, it brings a wedding band."
And then, I half expected you to hand
It back into my hand. And I'd say, "Oh."

That was the wakeful moment on which turned
The fateful twining, or untwining, of
Our love. You said, "Okay," and I said, "Yes?"

And you said, "Yes," and finally thus turned
Away not me but the untwining of
Our love. For nonetheless, you did say, "Yes."
I've never written a sonnet before, and I won't claim that this is a great one, but it tries to do some things that a sonnet is supposed to do. Mine is an Italian -- or Petrarchan -- sonnet composed of two four-line stanzas forming an octave (rhyme scheme abba abba) and two three-line stanzas forming a sestet (rhyme scheme cde cde). Although I follow the Italian rhyme scheme, I keep roughly to the English rhythm of iambic pentameter.

Typically, a sonnet states a proposition in its octave, then responds to that proposition in its sestet. The ninth line, which is therefore the first line of the sestet, is called the "volta" -- or "turn" -- because it introduces the moment of a turning (often a sharp turning) from proposition to response.

My poem may seem simple because I've not only used the rhyme scheme abba abba cde cde, I've even kept the same words (except for the wordplay "banned" and "band"). I could have done this differently, but I wanted to use the same words because I was presenting a moment in which two people either entwine themselves further together or completely untwine themselves from one another as the same words either devolve into different meanings or evolve into, more or less, the same meaning.

Thus do our two lives together form a single poem...


At 10:47 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

You're a very lucky man. Merry Christmas, and thanks for sharing the poem.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, HR, I am fortunate. Merry Christmas to you, too.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeffery. Cool it! Who cares about octave or sestet, volta or rhyme scheme? What you've shared is wonderful--that you've shared is wonderful. That it is witty and technically perfect is simply lagniappe.

Thank you for this sharing.

I read this just now to a friend who,50+ years into a brilliantly pragmatic life, is starting to write poetry. She describes this as a listening, whereas her training has been all asserting, and she is finding it a thrilling discovery. She thanks you too.

And Mrs. Jeffery -- thank you for asking such a present from himself!

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nancy, thanks for the new word: lagniappe.

Your friend's remark about writing poetry is also insightful. It is a kind of listening -- within and without.

I'll pass your thanks on to Sun-Ae.

Jeffery Hodges

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