Manhattan Sonnets 1-13
There is no mercy in you -- there is just
The teasing smile that hides the butcher knife.
There’s nothing in your ways that I can trust;
No street that’s not a threat against my life.
One night you’ll say “Hello, there!” with a gun.
One day I’ll tease you and you’ll have my head.
One wrong step and my walking days are done.
One hint of weakness and you’ll cut me dead.
The price I pay for loving you is hard:
I need to grow a second pair of eyes
To see behind me and keep up my guard,
And extra ears to listen for your lies,
And extra hope, that when you start to tear me
Limb from devoted limb, you’ll smile and spare me.
Fifteen [Ava’s Birthday Sonnet]
If beauty was a knife, then I would bleed
To death in seconds every time we meet.
If elegance was one unplanted seed
Then gardens would grow up around your feet.
If sweetness had a tongue, then it would sound
Like bells on Christmas morning when you laugh.
If lovely was a teardrop, I would drown
With HE DIED HAPPY as my epitaph.
If your smile was a snowflake, I would freeze.
If your touch was a feather, I could fly.
If words were music, you’d speak symphonies.
If your kisses were life, I’d never die.
So many ways to paint your beauty true;
So many diamonds, and the necklace you.
Sixteen [The Strand Books sonnet]
Sweet are the afternoons I’ve spent with you,
Touring the kingdom of your high-shelved alleys,
Reaching for rarities or something new,
Arms full of paperbacks or next month’s galleys.
Night after night I haunt a different section;
Day after day I scare up some new find:
Barthelme, Cabell, Wodehouse in collection,
Oscar Wilde’s letters, Auden’s poems (signed).
Offer me novels, journals, poems, plays;
Know what I want before I even look --
Stranded with you is how I’ll spend my days:
No need for rescue –- just a self-help book.
Yours is the siren song that always calls:
Come browse away your life within my walls.
Each night’s the same -- you fix me with a stare,
Pull me in close, lean hard against my hips,
And then, when I reach out to stroke your hair,
You’re always just beyond my fingertips.
And I will always reach, because with you
It’s not about the capture but the chase --
The plans to meet up trump the rendezvous;
The finish line is trash next to the race.
You’ve got “anticipate” down to a science.
To you, there’s nothing purer than the pleasure
Of long engagements stalling the alliance --
To you, X marks evasion: that’s your treasure,
And that’s why no one else on earth can match you --
You never let a single suitor catch you.
You change the board each time we play the game --
Replace the unsurprising with the new.
Only the pieces ever stay the same;
The rest, from roads to rules, is up to you.
Today, low score might win; tomorrow, high.
Yesterday’s short cut? Now it’s a dead end.
Last week the truth scored ten; this week, the lie.
Last month the lover; this month, just a friend.
You really love to keep me on my toes
Almost as much as I love keeping up
With all your moods, your whims, your change of clothes
Like different drinks our of the same sweet cup.
Each time you pour, my tongue tastes something new;
Each sip I take makes me more drunk with you.
You walked me past a vacant lot today.
A week ago it was my favorite store.
“It’s still the same old me inside,” you say.
“It’s just a different look.” But no -- it’s more.
I think inside you’re terrified, and so
Unsure of who you are that all your fears
Drive you to throw yourself at some young beau,
Spurning the heart who worshipped you for years.
And so you preen to please his roving eye,
And if you think he hates our favorite haunt,
You’ll tear it down, and kiss our past goodbye --
Tell him: “This place is yours –- what do you want?”
That’s you, my love: you crave today’s caress
But always dream about tomorrow’s dress.
There’s something naked in the way you look
At people who can open doors for you.
You cast your smile out like a baited hook
And reel them into shore -- no matter who
They’re swimming with or how much they resist,
You make them want to jump into your net:
Grateful that their mythologies are kissed
By your intentions -- glad to be your pet.
And when they’ve walked you through whatever door
They have the key to, and you finally come
To where they cannot help you any more,
You toss them into your aquarium,
And point to them and smile at me and coo:
“If you can open doors, that could be you.”
When I expose my vulnerability
You handle me with adolescent gloves
And try your best to never let me see
How low my name is on your list of loves.
The moment that I tell you how I feel,
You treat me like I’m guilty of a crime.
You lock your heart up like it’s the Bastille.
The same thing happens every single time:
When I show need, then you show me the door;
When I talk love, you sigh and shake your head;
I pour my heart out and it hits the floor;
I give birth to a hope -– you strike it dead.
And I come back for more –- I’ll never learn
Because your cold heart is what makes me burn.
Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells