Batter my heart (Holy Sonnet 14)

Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

**John Donne


Grimalkin by Thomas Lynch

One of these days she will lie there and be dead.
I’ll take her out back in a garbage bag
and bury her among my sons’ canaries,
the ill-fated turtles, a pair of angelfish:
the tragic and mannerly household pests
that had the better sense to take their leaves
before their welcomes and my patience had worn thin.
For twelve long years I’ve suffered this damned cat
while Mike, my darling middle son, himself
twelve years this coming May, has grown into
the tender if quick-tempered manchild
his breeding blessed and cursed him to become.
And only his affection keeps this cat alive
though more than once I’ve threatened violence -
the brick and burlap in the river recompense
for mounds of furballs littering the house,
choking the vacuum cleaner, or what’s worse:
shit in the closets, piss in the planters, mice
that winter indoors safely as she sleeps
curled about a table leg, vigilant
as any knickknack in a partial coma.
But Mike, of course, is blind to all of it -
the gray angora breed of arrogance,
the sluttish roar, the way she disappears for days
sex-desperate once or twice a year,
urgently ripping her way out the screen door
to have her way with anything that moves
while Mike sits up with tuna fish and worry,
crying into the darkness, “Here kitty kitty,”
mindless of her whorish treacheries
or of her crimes against upholsteries -
the sofas, love seats, wingbacks, easy chairs
she’s puked and mauled into dilapidation.
I have this reoccurring dream of driving her
deep into the desert east of town
and dumping her out there with a few days’ feed
and water. In the dream, she’s always found
by kindly tribespeople who eat her kind
on certain holy days as a form of penance.
God knows, I don’t know what he sees in her.
Sometimes he holds her like a child in his arms
rubbing her underside until she sounds
like one of those battery powered vibrators
folks claim to use for the ache in their shoulders.
And under Mike’s protection she will fix her
indolent green-eyed gaze on me as if
to say: Whaddaya gonna do about it, Slick,
the child loves me and you love the child.
Truth told, I really ought to have her fixed
in the old way with an airtight alibi,
a bag of Redi-mix and no eyewitnesses.
But one of these days she will lie there and be dead.
And choking back loud hallelujahs, I’ll pretend
a brief bereavement for my Michael’s sake,
letting him think as he has often said
“Deep down inside you really love her don’t you Dad?”
I’ll even hold some cheerful obsequies
careful to observe God’s never-failing care
for even these, the least of His creatures,
making some mention of a cat-heaven where
cat-ashes to ashes, cat-dust to dust
and the Lord gives and the Lord has taken away.
Thus claiming my innocence to the end,
I’ll turn Mike homeward from that wicked little grave
and if he asks, we’ll get another one because
all boys need practice in the arts of love
and all boys’ aging fathers in the arts of rage.

Love Is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; 
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink 
And rise and sink and rise and sink again; 

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, 
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; 
Yet many a man is making friends with death 
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. 

It well may be that in a difficult hour, 
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, 
Or nagged by want past resolution's power, 
I might be driven to sell your love for peace, 

Or trade the memory of this night for food. 
It well may be. I do not think I would. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay

First Shot

Michael Leviton

When I was four years old, 
my mother took me for my first shot. 

We waited in a line 
of sobbing children, 
asking their mothers, 
“Will it hurt? Will it hurt?” 
The mothers all said, 
“No, it won’t hurt.”

I asked my mother, “Will it hurt?”
She said, “It’ll hurt a little 
but it won’t last very long.”

When it came time for my shot, 
I didn’t cry. 

The nurse told my mother,
she’d never given a shot to a child 
who wasn’t crying, 
that I was the bravest child 
she’d ever seen. 

My mother said it wasn’t about bravery, 
that the other children weren’t 
crying out of fear, 
but out of sorrow 
at the betrayal of their mothers.