13 · 2010



6 Sonnets


  by Halvard Johnson





Sonnet: Portrait (in Photo Captions) of Chaim      Soutine



Outside the farmhouse in Le Blanc, Soutine and Paulette Jourdain

pose with the dog Riquette, who belonged to the cook, Amélie,

who may have lived over a slaughterhouse in the Vaugirard

where Soutine may have bought the beef carcass for his paintings


inspired by Rembrandt’s “The Slaughtered Ox,” 1655, which

Soutine studied carefully at the Louvre.  In the mid-1930s Soutine

and Madeleine Castaing stand together in casual clothes in an un-

identified town.  Soutine in an open car with Élie Faure and his


daughter Marie Zéline at Faure’s home in Prats, summer 1929.

Faure’s young son Jean-Paul stands nearby.  Henry Miller moved

to Villa Seurat on the day Tropic of Cancer appeared.  The center

building is No. 18, where Soutine had an apartment and studio


on the second floor and Henry Miller lived on the floor above him.

Soutine, in a relaxed mood, with his cigarette and a glass of milk.







Sonnet:  Spontaneous Separations



Mixed together and held in abeyance, jostling emotions

mind their tilt and twist boundaries until, going their own

ways, moving across irreversibility lines, they acquire new

properties, losing more and more electrons as they travel on.


Green-blooded and blue-tailed skinks now restricted to

xeric uplands, barring major accidents or electrical inter-

actions.  Milk droplets pouring from a cystral chalice,

acquiring different charges, abandoning all hope to enter.


Shaken out into a taxi or limo, sand artists carry with them

their mandalas and mudras.  Static prevents our reception

of previous messages, whether blue or red.  If public opin-

ion mattered, if it influenced policy, then stealth aircraft


would be much less important, with scattered and temporary

exceptions, now that our tribal balloon has descended.







Sonnet:  Morphine Wreckage



Gun crews seemed good and were in good spirits.

When shooting begins, changes are inevitable.

I have no preconceived ideas, no desire to have made

the second-greatest film ever.  Slowly, the ship


moved into dry-dock for hull inspection.  Several

prospective jurors were released due to “unfortunate”

experiences with police.  Scuttlebutt was thick

in the jury room, the jurors trying to piece together


a narrative from contradictory elements.  She goes

below, and her fingers trail over the door lintel

as she passes from view.  After the first showing

they thought their careers were over, but much too


much anguish has been spilled by those who quickly

judge writers by their middle names alone.  Stop.







Sonnet Kit CXLVII


[Some assembly required]



lines, 14                       a’s, 42

quatrains, 3                  b’s, 2

couplet, 1                     c’s, 11

sentences, 3                 d’s, 11

words, 108                  e’s, 55

letters, 468                   f’s, 7

   capitals, 17               g’s, 8

   lower case, 451

periods, 3

commas, 14

semicolons, 3

hyphens, 1

apostrophes, 2

syllables, 140







Sonnet:  Sellinger’s Round



Sellinger sells seltzer down the other side of town.

Up one side and down the other, Sellinger makes

his round.  A ramble with almost no restrictions

whatsoever, freely available to sundry and to all.


Cherokee kvetchers camped by the shores of Lake

Tathagata Lokeshvararaja used anyone at all to

achieve their ends.  Nearby, where villages dwindle

into scattered farms, and cities seemed surrounded


by groves of masts, cityfolk, with their medieval

prefrontal cortexes at the ready, strolling all about.

Timetables for trains were of little use in those days,

but flags of all nations hung from those masts


at the harbor.  The age of neurodiversity had just

begun, obsessional declivities all around.







Sonnet:  Autonomous Retreat



That hole, that vacuum, with talk and print—all oil

mergers suspended until further notice.  No use to cry

outside and scream inside.  It was all a sin click

here, until the storm bursts, and house is shut and still.


We share the luxury of seeing it all, building the scrub

of future sugar.  Having lost and forgotten everything,

the music must play forever—allegro, ma non troppo.

Unexplained bravura, place of safe laughter.


On the reasonable shoreline, white in the air, white

in the trees.  Father of wavelets, come lift your arms

with us.  Given this kind of city, sand beneath our feet

like broken glass, pieces of orphaned wreckage


tossed up by the storm.  Russian oil mergers suspended

by thumbs, between wetlands and the suffocating sea.





Halvard Johnson has lived and worked in Chicago, Illinois; El Paso, Texas; Cayey, Puerto Rico; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland, and New York City.  For many years he taught overseas in the European and Far East divisions of the University of Maryland, mostly in Germany and Japan.  He currently lives most of the year in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. 

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