Next Line, Please

Help Us Write a Sonnet: Line Eleven

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By David Lehman


 

Click here to read previous entries from our crowd-sourced sonnet, and here for David Lehman’s description of the history and requirements of the form.


 

How like a prison is my cubicle,

And yet how far my mind can freely roam

From gaol to Jerusalem, Hell to home.

Freedom ends or starts with a funeral.

Say what must die inside that I may not

Cast down this die and cross the Rubicon

Thence to the true hell: the heat of Tucson

Where drug lords blaze loads of coke, meth, and pot.

Freedom starts, or ends, with a funeral.

I once watched men with Uzis guard the Pope

No hope, no hope, no hope, no hope, no hope.

 


Sometimes strategic repetition wins the day. Jamie (no last name given) proposes “No hope, no hope, no hope, no hope, no hope,” and I buy it, hearing an echo of King Lear’s anguish, in Act V, Scene III, of Shakespeare’s great tragedy. This is what Lear utters when he learns of the death of Cordelia:  “And my poor fool is hanged. —  No, no, no life? / Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, / And thou no breath at all? Oh, thou’lt come no more, / Never, never, never, never, never.”

Among other strong contenders for line 11, I would single out Dorothy Rangel’s “Whose outward gaze yet breached the guarded scope”—a robust pentameter line whose central word capitalizes on the homophonic “breech,” the part of the rifle (or Uzi submachine gun) that permits the loading of a cartridge into the back of the gun’s barrel. Rangel’s line also recalls “Once more unto the breach, dear friends,” from Shakespeare’s Henry V.

MQ came up with several compelling possibilities. Two of the best were “The earth sins on its axis, after all” and “The Body is the Spirit’s velvet rope.”  Like the first of these, Joe Lawlor’s “Our dread of God, our love of death is all” would, if re-submitted, get strong consideration for line 12.

Many other lines impressed me with their ingenuity or aptness. Theresa M. DiPasquale offers a line in the form of a comment on the previous line: “The sacred and the violent—a trope!” Frank Bidart’s “From angry men without Uzis or hope” hits a chord, and we can well understand and sympathize with the desire expressed by Debra L.: “And longed to place flowers in their barrels.”

In line 12, we are looking to complete the third quatrain of the sonnet, setting up a closing couplet. Although ”funeral” may not be the easiest word in the world to rhyme with, the options range from “Goneril” or “guttural” all the way to half-rhymes or part-rhymes on the order of “hospital,” “manual,” “aerial,” and “musical.”


WINNER’S CIRCLE:

How like a prison is my cubicle, (DL)

And yet how far my mind can freely roam (Leo Braudy)

From gaol to Jerusalem, Hell to home. (Brian Anderson and his 12th grade composition class)

Freedom ends or starts with a funeral. (Frank Bidart)

Say what must die inside that I may not  (MQ)

Cast down this die and cross the Rubicon (Anna E. Moss)

Thence to the true hell: the heat of Tucson (Lewis Saul)

Where drug lords blaze loads of coke, meth, and pot. (Diana)

Freedom starts, or ends, with a funeral.

I once watched men with Uzis guard the Pope (James the Lesser)

No hope, no hope, no hope, no hope, no hope. (Jamie)


Please leave your suggestion for the next line in a comment below.

David Lehman is the series editor for The Best American Poetry annual anthology. He has published eight books of poetry, the most recent of which is New and Selected Poems.

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