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Michelle Chen
Grade 11, Hunter College High School
Kip Zegers

Carpe Noctem: A Crown of Sonnets

You’ve been imagining a no-fly zone, 
reckless bullet exhaling foreign air
above the frozen copulating bears.
I dreamed that I caught flight at Yellowstone
and spread the wood and wax to stars alone
beating back geysers’ bubbling flares
in ecstasy. It’s true, so said Voltaire,
(when drought is jealous of flames in acetone)
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget
to sing in the life boats,” as the rag doll
flew with the swiftly rising fireball
at Hiroshima when the flageolet 
blasted the sun from its place in the sky:
you’ve seen through T.J’s dark electric eye.

You’ve seen through T.J’s dark electric eye,
sown ghosts in a museum of open books  
for memory, when a god’s great shoe shook
with fever. Four days after the first cry
she carried him through fronds of wild rye,
kissed his ghetto fist, rinsed with one last look
at Meliandou: wolves drink at these brooks 
in December. A boat is no good bye.
So, carpe noctem! Guilty after all!
Her son’s dead body seems to split in two
as he glides through the evening dew
and vanishes. The stars rupture and fall
with her: Romulus and Remus have found
Ebola. My womb was their burial ground.

Ebola. My womb was their burial ground
out of spite. I dreamed my flesh and bone free
of contagion and fell into the sea
to breathe. To tell the truth, I heard no sound
except my own splash and glimpsed none around
in selfishness. But don’t you dare deny
my right to live my life as firefly.
A challenge, Challenger! Escape this mound
of devastation: fragments come ashore
occasionally on the Florida coast
and paw at our hoarse throats, ghost or no ghost.
Inhaling musk and accident I swore
to go to the last familiar street, snow
rising, rising, towards nowhere you know.

Rising, rising towards nowhere you know,
the sweetest boundary of softened earth
crumbled as my feet slapped turtle birth
trails descending hysterically: no 
regrets, none in flushed lunar armpit glow.
“Spread my tidings of the golden future time,”
sang Old Major, as organized hate crime
trembled two thousand bridges, woke Van Gogh,
the day twin towers were razed to the ground.
Far above, the fliers burst into riot 
but again in the night it is quiet
enough. Both death and life a snuffling greyhound
seeks, the leash’s soft click click nosing through foul
air. Far away I hear its whimpering howl.

Air. Far away I hear its whimpering howl,
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys, be kind
to me. A balloon to a child intertwined
does not fly. You’ve sung better than an owl
once, scared more than its iridescent scowl,
chained night to blood in all veins of mankind
(yes, all, you’re not spared). So that’s how I find
clarity at the witch’s house. The cat prowls
at the doorstep: in the photograph of fame
the woman gazes, pink cap-hat tilted 
with gaiety. Later, Jackie will wilt,
claw at black leather, fingers aflame 
with pieces of her husband’s skull. I sprint
for peace in gingerbread and peppermint.

For peace in gingerbread and peppermint
I plunge into the kitchen with my nose,
the cool soil crumbling from my toes
and studding Sylvia’s shadow. Fine print
leers: no one home beyond the curtain chintz.
“Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes,” she goes,
as a wet towel slips from its floppy pose
onto the tiles at midnight. The glint
of earrings personal: did she toss, turn?
In hours the nearby church rattles its bell
to rust. One woman’s bombing is our own unwell,
left to blister, simmer, arise and burn
in ecstasy. I spread my wings and eat
bread, soup, fish, nuts: all line my guts like peat.

Bread, soup, fish, nuts: all line my guts like peat 
in raw truth. “Purer shall its waters be,”
so said Orwell, “on the day that sets us free,”
(when tragedy gets jealous of crow’s feet)
as the swiftly rising she-wolf’s teat
is milked dry, kneeling by the poplar tree,
that sweet milk of insomnia. I agree:
in sunlight I will never be complete 
(striking the wood and wax to stars alight)
without transition between stunning frowns.
So, carpe noctem! Wear this dreadful crown
of mercy. For I dreamed that I caught flight 
at Yellowstone (T.J’s dark eyelid shone),
and you’ve been imagining a no-fly zone.