Six Sonneted "Little Novels"
Moby DickIn those days priests preached of whales--devils
they called them--their tiny eyes and sure-thing wings.
Ahab talked to the whale's severed head, sphinx-
like and dumb as sand, said, "Tell me the secrets
of underwater breathing and small-boned fish."
Moby Dick's ear was a mere pin-prick, his heart
unreachable under all that flesh. Shark-
riddled waters and mermaid-lush islands
dotted Ahab's maps, inspiring lust
and lunar dreaming. The crew liked to sing rounds
that sounded lovely when the whales joined.
Even the harpooners swooned, teary-eyed,
their hands trembling like fish before they died.
When they hit the high notes--chords of angels.
Moby Dick 2Fleece gave a sermon to the sharks. He said
the only difference between angels and sharks
was the way they circled blood from afar--
clockwise or not--and their number of teeth.
Stubbs and Starbuck loved a good whale steak, each
licking lips and picking whiskers to the tune
of "Under the Boardwalk." Strange rescues
of cabin boys and mermen incited
even the Christians on board. Delighted
heathens told tales of a temperate hell
while angel-sharks flew through the air, no bells
or trumpets to mark their coming. Ishmael
was glad to find the meaning of evil--
what a waste of knowledge when you're dead!
For Whom the Bell TollsThe code hero is afraid of the dark
but loves a good war, blowing up a bridge,
making love all night to avoid the frig-
id sting of heroism. When Pilar
missed Valencia, Pablo told her:
"Honey, don't my horses mean anything?"
Poor Pablo, capitalist in the making,
such a ragged soldier, a non-gypsy.
The difference between murder and killing
is the difference between coffee and tea,
ole! When Pilar saw Jordon's lifeline bleed
into unlucky pores, she held her tongue.
The bridge blew up--kapow--each soft lung
full of gun powder, each bruised cough a spark.
For Whom the Bell Tolls 2Robert Jordan changed his mind when he met
Maria. He thought: "Hey, what the fuck,
I'm an American! I love to buck
the system, parrot war slogans, defy
the cynics who can't die, won't die, but die
anyway, their eyes rolling in death."
Maria hated bull-fights. Even the best
warriors were cowards in her eyes, the least
revered. Seventy-two hours before his
end, our hero met his true love. Snow in May
is uncommon, even in Hemingway.
Envision your footprints, your enemy
following them to cave and aerie,
sparing your life at the last minute.
Pride and PrejudiceLydia wanted sex, Charlotte wanted cash.
Elizabeth wanted a husband who flew
like a UN delegate to rescue
the needy yet rolled in gold at the same time.
Fitzwilliam Darcy thought it a crime
Elizabeth's family burped at the table
and broke crystal with their shrill decibels
and seedy salutations. Jane and Liz
dreamt of nineteenth century picket fences,
rough sketches of husbands sitting in comfy chairs,
snoring, debating, proud and prejudiced. Fair
maids were men's due and prey, pretty misses
who got spices just right. The marriage system
made sense even as it wobbled and crashed.
Pride and Prejudice 2Mary Bennet's fingers on ivory
were like her mother's tongue, socially
sloppy and stupid. Darcy boastfully
said his mother spoke French and dressed in satin,
but she'd died when he was three. Jane Austen
died at forty-two: zenith of her power.
"Janeites" read too much into it, skewered
Austen's books in support of snobbery
and self-righteousness, sainthood, and free
condoms (whoops, wrong nineties). Her heroine
breathed irony, miscommunication
at parties. Liz chewed with her mouth closed
when everything in her screamed to open
wide and squeeze mashed potatoes through her teeth.
Animal FarmOld Major (Karl Marx) taught pigs to read
and organize. Snowball's (Trotsky's) Windmill
flourished under Napoleon's (Stalin's)
two-legged rule, pig rhetoric, the blight
of the porcine underclass. Boars on hind
legs carried placards that read, "Power to
Pig/Men!" They buried hams and eggshells, moved
the furniture around for their convenience.
Even donkey skeptics stopped using past tense
and folded themselves into soft couches,
forgetting the first commandment which said:
"Animals are forbidden to sleep in beds."
Pillowcases and sheets kept in the shed
were burned in that final Battle of Greed.
Animal Farm 2Napoleon took a bunch of puppies
and raised them to be his henchmen, spoiled
all the fun. The revolution boiled
under everyone's hide until the pigs
dug up Old Major's skull and made a big
deal out of the former leader's commandments.
Whips of dystopia, disenchantment
ruined the farm and Boxer became glue,
all because of hunger, which only proves
how important it is for animals
to never wear stripes or badges--criminals
and soldiers look alike from behind.
Too bad for the hens and sheep, ultra-kind
barnyarders who never did get lucky.
The Great GatsbyDaisy floated, complacent as face cream,
above Myrtle's home, the valley of ashes.
"My husband's a mechanic, that's a fact,"
Myrtle said, her white powder seeping
into the little greedy lines peeping
out of eyes and mouth. Her lover dogged her,
her husband left greasy hand prints everywhere.
Her only way up was through a man.
Nick Carraway was still alive at the end
of all that death, thumbing back to the Great Lakes
where savoir-faire was no cause for debate,
where nouveau riches grew bored with the prairies,
jet-skied down the mighty Mississippi,
Mercedied home where no buffalo roamed free.
The Adventures of Tom SawyerTom successfully avoided suicide
by being naughty, proving the theory
that boys who fake their own deaths and taunt dreary
teachers wind up with the niftiest girls--
like Becky Thatcher with her smart short curls,
cave-courage, and propensity for bullies.
Her pantalettes were embroidered with lilies,
but don't let that fool you--she loved adventure.
In fact, The Adventures of Becky Thatcher
was conceived by Twain's sweetheart, Laura Hawkins.
Like L.H., Becky loved flirting, talking
to Huck or Joe when Tom wasn't behaving--
which only proves that a doodlebug dangling
from a cave's mouth means there's a witch inside.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 2Tom's famous white-washing-the-fence scam
enabled the small infidel to trade
apples for heaven, doughnuts for good grades
in school. Work was what Tom had to do. Play
was flipping a pinch bug in church, a game
of pirates that lasted so long the whole town
had picked out his pint-sized casket, bemoaning
how some day he could have been president
of IBM or an excellent
writer of kid's fiction like Mark Twain--
who stopped writing before Tom became
a crafty politician or soldier
of fortune. In the novel, Tom preferred
the role of baby maker, family man.