A sonnet for the Covid-19 shutdown.
Our home contains the world, these days. Not all
We love, perhaps, but most and dearest-held
Is sheltered safe inside these shabby walls.
We hadn’t noticed how our lives had swelled
Like springtime floods that, everflowing, rise
To overwhelm the riverbanks but won’t
Recede again; our floodplain never dries.
Diversions tugged relentlessly (they don’t
Deserve the time we gave them). Swindled by
False urgency, we’d grasped toward each demand.
Turns out this busied frenzy was a lie;
The only tasks worth doing are at hand.
This sudden, unexpected ebb has shown
How small, yet rich, our cares should be: our own.
© 2020 Josh Bishop
The year’s first snow should look more like the flakes
In snowglobes or in Hallmark’s Christmas flicks
Than this, a dingy slop of wet sleet thick
With slush and gross with leaves that lie unraked
Throughout the yard. Their tannins stain the snow
Like yellow piss. We’ll have to wait a few
More weeks — a month, perhaps — before the truly
Picturesque snow falls. It will, I know,
Because it always has before. And when
It does, the lamppost in our yard will stretch
Its charming beams like fingers out to catch
And hold each gently falling snowflake. Then
The snow (at last, a faultless wintry sight!)
Will blanket all, like Christ our sins, in white.
© 2019 Josh Bishop
There are no graveyards here that want a ghost,
No clapboard churches crowning far-off hills
Whose stones like granite corn rows stretch almost
To where a slate-cold sky meets soil and chills
Our blood with thoughts of Pilgrim bones laid down
Beneath the frost line, safe from fall’s last fell
And skittish breath, which blows before it browning
Autumn leaves to heap in grave-like dells
Where wait old ghosts on crisp New England nights.
No, here belong no poltergeists to spy
And startle from our peace with sudden frights
We weary, footsore souls who wander by.
Here, instead, spring-turned-summer’s splendent rays
(As far removed from cold Atlantic glooms
As south from north) have long lit tranquil days
Where wildflowers — butter-yellow blooms,
Or lupine blue, like bonnets — dot vast plains
Still somehow green despite the noontime heat.
Those wisps might later swell with evening rains
To water prairie grasses, long like wheat,
But now they simply scuff the sky, too thin
To send their shadows racing by, now slow,
Now fast, spurred on before some sigh of wind
That ripples waves across the fields below.
Yet even here, beneath the shadeless sun’s
Benevolent and gently warming face,
The headless Hessian’s stallion sometimes runs.
Its sudden gallop spooks and puts to chase
Scared choirs of startled songbirds from their trees.
Then, with withered visage grimaced, tight-drawn,
An unexpected specter stoops to seize
With grasping, grapnel hands — and then it’s gone.
The steadfast sun still shines unfazed, still bright,
While we, who half-recall the birdsong, grieve
To hear the fading wingbeats of their flight,
The skittish scratch of browning autumn leaves.
© 2019 Josh Bishop
I wrote this poem as a Christmas song to convince my kids that Santa would rather have beer and tobacco than cookies and milk. Just needs some music, is all.
A cold Christmas Eve with a warm moonlit glow
A quiet night soft with the fresh-fallen snow
Inside, out of reach from the cold winter air
Santa’s stuffing the stockings with care
The kids left a glass and a plate piled high
But Santa just pulls on his beard with a sigh
It’s a been a long night, still there’s hours to go
And he’d rather have beer and tobacco
Oh, milk is okay if you don’t drive a sleigh
But a cold ale would warm Santa’s toes
And cookies are fine if you’re staying inside
But a corncob would thaw Santa’s nose
Rudolph got oats from the neighbor next door
And Santa’s already had cookies galore
The last thing he wants is an after-school snack
O, give Santa some beer and tobacco
His pipe can’t be packed full of ready-rubbed holly
And milk won’t make anyone’s cheeks red or jolly
Kids, put down the chocolate chip cookies this year
Please leave Santa tobacco and beer
Santa’s eyes never twinkle so bright as they do
When he’s half a bowl in while he’s sipping a brew
Eat the cookies yourself, kids, I promise I know
Santa really wants beer and tobacco
© 2018 Josh Bishop