A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets were written over a bit less than three months in 1996; the date on each poem indicates when it was written. I remember them as being pretty spontaneous overall. As I mentioned earlier this month, I'll post these sonnets here on the dates they were written as a sort of 13 year anniversary.
I’m sure I envisioned more than seventeen sonnets, which is an odd number to end on, literally & otherwise, but in August I hit a wall. The poem dated 8/1 was the last thing wrote until writing “She Sells Seashells” in 2002; I then “put down the pen” again (only figuratively—I’ve pretty much only written on a computer keyboard for a number of years) until the spring of 2008.
The summer of 96 was significant to me both because I was nearing my 40th birthday in September (I think decade birthdays tend to be times of reflection), & also because I traveled from San Francisco back to Charlottesville, VA in July. I believe the 7/18 & 7/23 sonnets both were written on that trip. Since my time in Charlottesville (from 84-89) had been filled with all sorts of psychic commotion, the trip was a bit of a pilgrimage. Of course, the past—as always—had slipped away from any sort of tangibility into memory, where it’s both lost & ever present….
Some people assumed at the time the sonnets were being written that the character “Marlowe” was literally intended to be Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe character. Though I am a big Chandler fan & read him a lot around this time, this was at most a piece of the puzzle. I liked the name in general, & I also had the (reputedly) dissolute Elizabethan poet in mind along with the fictional LA detective. There also are both autobiographical & imagined details contained in the character quite separate from either of those two figures.
One final note—just because I liked the way it looked, I abbreviated state names in these poems: VT=Vermont, VA=Virginia, etc. When I gave readings I would say the state name, not the abbreviation. It seems a little confusing when used for Vermont because I don’t believe town names are ever mentioned alongside the abbreviation. I still keep this quirk up, along with my passion for dashes as sole punctuation & a few spellings that I like but some may or may not find like a tic; same goes for me & ampersands!
The streets referred to are in San Francisco, mostly either in the Mission or the Western Addition (or betwixt & between the two)— the places I loved to hang out & live in those days.
The first sonnet was dated 5/21. Here it is:
A badminton net in a VT backyard afflicted with a
Rosicrucian sunset & an outbreak of communist mosquitos
buzzing a Manachevitz buzz in Mr Marlowe’s a-
symmetrical ears— & a transistor radio
perched in a scotch pine sporting superfluous
shades & crooning Blue Bayou— which is likewise
superfluous— as Baltimore Orioles
swooping into the hedge to roost make Marlowe think
Descartes was right for no particular reason
except he’s cadaverous drunk & shouldn’t be lounging
in the tattered green & white lawn chair after all
his eyes floating westward plasmic inside a spectacular
bronze Chevy Malibu 15 miles east of Needles
where shuttlecocks & fortune cookies are likewise dissolving
© John Hayes 1996-2009