Divination – A Sonnet for Your Thoughts



And I lay sleeping, weaving a dead dream,

a late nightmare where we played tarot cards

stacked in two piles on headstones that gleam.

In the cemetery where we played bards,

by the waning light of the sun, singing,

chanting spells, drawing cards that spoke of woe.

Their words echoed across the graves, ringing

softly, raising souls and bones row by row.

Words uttered by plastic voices that rose

and fell with the guttering candle flames,

that let cards foretell our late repose

when our children will invoke our sweet names,

by our graves, drawing tarot cards whose speech

echoes our words, and we, through graves, still preach.


I wasn’t going to delve into poetry but I couldn’t resist posting this sonnet for you. It’s one of the few poems I’ve ever written worth sharing. This came out of an assignment for a class I took back in college.

What scared me the most about it was how easy it was to compose. A Shakespearean sonnet should be tough. At least I thought it would be but the whole thing just fell into place while I shot a photography assignment of a gothed-out friend in a grave yard. All I did was read aloud a bunch of Shakespeare’s sonnets until I had the cadence in my head. (I did mention that I’m an audio learner…) Then I picked up a pen and scribbled a draft. I did play with a few of the words but still, in shorter period of time that I expected, I had a sonnet. One I had composed. Myself. This boggled me. It still does.

I turned it in to the prof certain I’d get it back covered in red ink. It couldn’t be that easy. It just couldn’t. My jaw hit the floor when it came back with an A on it and compliments instead of corrections. Where was the struggle? Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of agony over the form or sound of the thing? Why wasn’t there?

The whole thing just got more and more surreal. Not only was there no struggle to get the final draft right but I was urged to submit it to contests. I shrugged and sent it in figuring that it wouldn’t be selected. How could it? Who was I but some amateur? A sophomore in college who couldn’t settle on a major–that was me. The whole effort had taken a couple of hours. How could it possibly win anything? I had better luck buying a lotto ticket.

And then the letter came. Divination had won. I handed the letter to my mother to read certain I had imagined the news. But no, she confirmed it with a hug. Remember that photography project that sparked the poem? I aced that too.

I’m still mystified over a decade later by all this. I thought it was a noble effort but award winning? My inner cynic wondered what my sonnet was up against. Don’t get me wrong. I love the poem. I just didn’t expect other people to love it as much as I did.

7 thoughts on “Divination – A Sonnet for Your Thoughts

  1. I strongly concur with Thomas. having written 200 sonnets myself, this is one of the best sonnets I have come across.

    “Words uttered by plastic voices that rose

    and fell with the guttering candle flames,

    that let cards foretell our late repose” ….. this is exquisite! Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

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