“What,” cried Lady in complete disgust, “I can’t believe you don’t understand my sonnet! I mean, you can read Shakespeare and Donne, but you can’t get my sonnet? I don’t get that!”
I didn’t get it either, nor did César, when I spoke with him three or four hours later.
“What does ‘condone’ mean to you,” César asked.
“It means not to punish or take action, or something like that,” I said.
“Right, but when Lady used it in her poem, she thought it meant to deny or reject, so it gave one line a completely different meaning. So we talked about that, and when I left Lady was lying in bed, driving Google nuts with searches for possible alternative meanings of ‘condone.’”
“I think she meant ‘condemn,’” I told him. “Anyway, it would work, if she did, since it wouldn’t screw up her rhyme scheme.”
Lady had her surgery three weeks ago, and her world is now reduced to the twenty feet between bed and bathroom. Except that she is also roaming through Stanford University, thanks to an online poetry course.
“So why Stanford,” I asked.
“Because it’s Stanford,” she replied, as if everyone knew that Stanford was the ground zero for poetry education.
“I have two other students who are critiquing me, and they always rip me apart. Snobs! But the professor gave me an A, for the sonnet you don’t understand!”
“I read it when my brain was tired, after a hard class,” I told her. So we resolved, we would tackle the sonnet after she got done speaking to Yesi, an ex-employee, whom nobody had much liked working with. All right, tell the truth: Jorge, the manager, had given an ultimatum—it was him or her.
“I don’t want to be alone with her, so don’t leave me, Marc,” said Lady. I was good with that, since I figured that Lady wanted to use my being there as an excuse not to have what would likely be a hard conversation. So what happened?
…the hard conversation.
So there I was, at the foot of Lady’s bed, busy writing yesterday’s post, and listening to Cristóbal de Morales, and it worked too! Except for the silence between movements, during which I learned…
“….you broke my heart!”
“…it’s just that I can’t trust anyone…”
“…you can’t allow your insecurities to run your life…”
So I can tell you that the hard conversation lasted through the de Morales, and most of the way through the Orlando di Lasso that YouTube, quite logically, decided to follow up with. Then it was time for the sonnet. Lady, like Montalvo, is of the opinion that all you have to do is read the poem aloud, and the meaning will be automatically clear. So she reads the sonnet:
Can I have your lips pressed against my own?
Boast to the balance of wine’s crystal orb,
From which no love’s tacit tongue could condone,
And drink at will the cause of its reward?
Tipsy shy your humble vanity’s force—
That leads me to dilute my manner’s hold,
Pray, single soul, if not, one seeks divorce,
That you, as I, can own our own threshold!
The vintage cup at harvest time’s enough.
May all my weathered seasons be the Fall!
But for two, love, decisions of the crush
Can only be hand picked, if not at all!
Consuming God is our free will bestowed
So your mouth from thus, I devote my ode.
“Now do you get it?” she wanted to know.
“I don’t do poetry very well,” I told her. “There’s a lot of stuff I don’t get.”
So she explains it, and I get it, sort of, though it’s still sort of not there. But that’s OK, since Montalvo has also sent me a poem, via a text on my cell phone. So we read that, somewhat guiltily, since Montalvo had sent it just to me.
“I like the image,” I said, and Lady agreed, though we both felt it should be ‘I am a flower growing in a cave,’ instead of ‘I feel like…’
“Hey, ‘I am a flower growing in a cave,’ is perfect iambic pentameter,” I told her.
Don’t worry, iambic pentameter is just five “ta DUMS.”
“I may write a sonnet with that as the opening line, just to see if I can. After all, I made Montalvo do it, so I should probably do it as well.”
Lady responded by smacking her lips shark-ily and rubbing her hands together.
“After all, if Montalvo can do it, I should be able to do it, right?”
Strata of epidermis are flying everywhere!
“And it can’t be that hard, though I had forgotten about the damn twist in the third quatrain….”
Lady has become the alph- hyena zeroing in on the kill.
“OK—so I’ll do it!”
Time for a kiss, and I’m off, asking over my shoulder, “Hey, you need anything?”
“THAT SONNET” she flared back.
Here it is, Lady!
Flower in a Cave Wall
(Dedicated to Pablo, current-Christian, ex-gay)
So vile the flower growing in a cave,
Its thorny roots refusing rain from God,
Content to rove in beds of filth and crave
The dark, the dank, the peace of steps ne’er trod.
The flower all rank shades of wounds adorn,
Puss-Purple, orange, bile in green and more.
Of him from Blessed Mary then was born
From you, my love, my bleeding heart they tore.
He died upon the rough-hewn cross, they say,
I died the day you crucified our love
And turned to find another game to play.
Dear Jesus, keep my soul in heav’n above!
He died, was wept, and lifted to the sky.
I turn to him in love and yet I die!