The Chimaera: Issue 6, August 2009

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Jennifer Reeser

From Sonnets from the Dark Lady

  “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…”

Milord makes rare parade of his emotions.
Completing undertakings at the pew,
No braggart sagas follow his devotions;
His myths are masked, reported visions few.
Inviting me to drink but not to dance,
He sheds no tears departing from my bed.
He has one sole, uninterrupted glance.
I have for faith the sacrificed unsaid.
Many a diva gets her burning word,
Chocolate oblations brandied, blessed, hot-toddied.
I have for heat the hidden and unheard,
An incandescent, backwards disembodied,
And would — for naught and nothing — make a trade
For pageants staged within him, well-displayed.

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  “A thousand groans but thinking on thy face…”

Deliciously, in last night’s dream, in stark
Chromatic semitones of silver gloom,
A gangly actress groping through blind dark,
I found you, as I tapped around the room —
Lounged out along a couch in moonlight, still
And waiting for me in the shriveled mist
Of atmosphere, beneath a windowsill.
I knelt, my fist against you, and we kissed.
Then, rousing to remember and write down
The gist for you, I felt a stabbing pain
Behind the ribs and bodice of my gown,
Where hands had been too heavy to remain.
The finale our opus to be finished,
What’s meant by minorseventh and diminished?

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   “My love is as a fever, longing still…”

When still a silly girl, I dreamed there came
From far away, with fame, a star who fell
At my front walkway: wounded, weak, and lame,
Whom I alone had power to make well.
Abed for days with fever, damp and prone
To alternate from numbness into flush,
He languished as I listened to him moan,
Leaning above him, cautious not to brush
Against his fits. What Heaven had decreed
Was that I heal, not aggravate, nor nurse
Tenacious aftertastes of my own need,
Forbidding me. And so, now reimburse,
Endure not cure, but care; now, if you will,
Below me moan, Belovèd. Lie, long still.

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    “Can’st thou, O cruel, say I love thee not?”

If I were both thy mistress and thy muse,
From all conceivable reactions, chief
Among my choices — if I had to choose —
Would be the innocence of disbelief.
You see all by aurora, analyze
All brilliant day displays, and so aware
Am I of these foul faults, that from such eyes
I would hide in oblivion, lest they compare
Me sickly with the witches from your past.
Hence, I will hold you in the dark, denied
The disappointments of a love held fast.
If darkness blinds, in truth, it never lied,
And though he praise the perfect, pure, and good,
Man cannot love what is not understood.

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Jennifer is the author of two collections published by Word Press: Winterproof, and An Alabaster Flask, winner of the Word Press First Book Prize. Her poems, essays and translations of French and Russian literature appear in The National Review, POETRY, Able Muse, The Formalist, Louisiana Literature, The Raintown Review and The Dark Horse. Her work is also gathered in numerous anthologies, online and in print. She lives in southern Louisiana.
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