Selected Sonnets of Dai Lowe

(not all of them - just the least embarrassing)


VI   to a restaurant
VII  to a nurse
IX   to another nurse
X    on Shaw and Shakespeare
XI   a postscript to Sonnet X
XII   on love and friendship
XIII a postcard to MiniLu
XIV to Laura, in a pizzeria
XVI ‘Tis now so far from Heaven to my Heart
XVII On Buying Zoe a Book of Keats' Poetry
XVIII Sonnet a la Suisse
XIX la bête inhumaine
XX It Never Rains
XXI Consolations of Solitude
XXII The Saddest Day?
XXIII Barthes et Baudrillard: Flashlights for the Few
XXVI To a fellow sufferer
XXIX Hindsight Sonnet



VI

from a satisfied customer

Joe and Vicky Zaranoff's Restaurant, Warwick

27th April 1985


Did ever we go home so satisfied?
(I never knew these trousers were so tight)
Say what you will, it cannot be denied,
This restaurant has floored my appetite.
Eggs mayonnaise and pate of wild boar,
Two pigeons, simmeréd in rich red wine:
Stomachs o’errule the taste-buds’ cries of “More!”
But, then again, the puds look so divine.
O wondrous menu; such exquisite food,
To please the most discerning gastronome.
As long as Zaranoff’s remains this good,
I know I’ll find, wherever I may roam,
Agreement from each one I meet who knows
Just what it means to say, “I eat at JOES!”



*[Joe, a Latvian heavyweight wrestler from the 60’s and his petite, posh but domineering wife Vicky,
ran a very idiosyncratic eatery in the Square in Warwick until the early 90’s when they both became terminally ill.
They encouraged punters to write things on scraps of paper to stick on the walls. Thus, this.
It did occur to me to write “wrestlerant” instead of restaurant but taste prevailed.]






VII

another sonnet to another Julia

to Julia Stone, on her 20th Birthday

9th September 1985


How could a man stay ill, if nursed by you?
Yet, nursed by you, what man would wish to mend?
If sickness bring me your attentions, do
Let sickness come and ever be my friend.
I came to London with a broken heart,
For one I loved most dear had proved untrue.
I met you at the Proms and, from the start,
Your physic worked to make my heart anew.
That radiant smile; that back; that beauteous face;
Those breasts, so perfect (how can they be real?),
And, most of all, the warmth of your embrace,
Bring new affliction, even as they heal —
If I come on too strong, forgive me, please:
Your absence now is my poor heart’s dis-ease



*[Julia was a nurse at St Thomas’s Hospital and modelled for me once or twice.
Though I was very fond of her, the poem does rather exaggerate my affection in the name of poetic license.
The earlier Julia was a flirtation at university and inspired Sonnett III — if you call that inspiration!]






IX

to a second Lucy and a second nurse

to Lucy Perry in the Royal Albert Hall

11th August 1986


It happens to me everywhere I go —
I think I must be suff’ring from a curse —
‘Cause nearly every girl I get to know
And fall in love with, seems to be a nurse.
Okay, I know you ain’t a nurse no more —
But nurse, ex-nurse, what difference does it make?
Another one I can’t but help adore —
Another chance to make the Big Mistake.
It isn’t fair of you to be so nice:
That smile of yours should be against the law.
Life’s just a game, but some cunt fixed the dice
I guess I’m gonna lose my heart once more.
Just when I think it can’t get any worse
I meet with one more bloody lovely nurse!



*[Written during Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto. Revised during Schubert’s Symphony No 9.
Lucy was doing secretarial training having given up nursing. We moved in together in September ’86
and she left me in December ‘99, by which time she was doing a PhD and teaching medieval English in Lausanne.
Big Mistake indeed!
The first Lucy was Lucy Hutton, to whom I dedicated Sonnet VIII, which was crap]






X

on a Love that Grew in spite of Education

entry for a Folio Society competition

1990?


SHAW said he didn’t want his work to be
An instrument of torture for the young
And that’s how SHAKESPEARE often seemed to me;
His verses like a trip-wire to my tongue.
We had to learn What Ev’ry Schoolboy Knows;
Dissect each play by character and plot:
We analysed the blank verse and the prose
And left the corpse, dismember’d thus, to rot.
Oh that some teacher then possess’d the skills
To make our half-formed minds appreciate
The language, insights, humour — even thrills
That some find not at all and I found late.
Then only one thing could have pleas’d me more —
To disinter and throw some stones at SHAW.



*[Winning a complete works in the folio edition. Second prize in the quiz but judged the best Sonnet among the tie-breakers]






XI

post scriptum to Sonnet X

appended to the entry

1990?


You won’t believe the places that I’ve been
To find the answers for your ruddy quiz:
Asked ev’ryone — I nearly phoned the QUEEN
And looked in ev’ry SHAKESPEARE book there is.
Each introduction, study note and guide,
Biography, concordance, each play’s text;
There can’t be many more I haven’t tried
Yet still one sodding question has me vexed.
No doubt I’ll kick myself when I learn who
Was scared of what in that proverbial house
I’m sure it’s not Twelfth Night or Much Ado;
Nor GRANVILLE BARKER, LAMB or A L ROWSE.
Now, though all seems in vain, I’ll have to try
And hope the rest are just as stuck as I.



*[I think the question referred to Dr Johnson saying he would rather spend the night in a haunted house
than endure the closing scenes of Lear again.
In fact I also mis-identified the glover whom WS had eulogised in early life as his Dad, rather than A Ainley.]






XII

On Love and Friendship


December 1997


I lie beside her, trying not to Fart;
My dear Friend, small and soft in my embrace.
I share with her the secrets of my heart;
She reads my very Soul writ in my Face.
But with my Partner, though the Wind goes free,
My feelings must be kept on tighter rein;
She lies and reads a book, her back to me
I try to show my Love, yet try in vain.
Let not the freshness of a new amour
Deceive me into finding old love stale.
All odorous comparisons abhor
And my belief in Love will still prevail
Then I can lie with each – or both – at will
With sweeter air their lives – and beds – to fill.



[Based on an intense friendship that both saved and harmed my main relationship at the time.
In the interests of the poem, much artistic licence is applied so I feel I should say, for the sake of others involved,
that the "new amour" was not a sexual relationship and the lying together was for conversation on a rainy day in a chairless room.
But it does play with the idea, as expressed by Quentin Crisp, that the person closest to us is the one with
whom we are least likely to observe elementary manners, while adding the fact that there are all too often
periods when we can only express to friends what we most need to say to our lovers.
Unfortunately it gives no idea how to solve this problem, proving Wilde's dictum that all art is completely useless!

More importantly this is probably the nearest I ever got to making a sonnet work properly in the classical sense:
the argument and counter-idea in the first and second quatrains followed by the (attempted) reconciliation and conclusion]






XIII

Little Lucy, Her Sonnet

for Lucy Monaghan

20th November 1999


Shall I compare thee to a Shakespeare play?
It might be quite a laugh were I to try it.
You do not have so many things to say
But, truth be told, I've never known you quiet.
Though shorter, you make just as many scenes
You're often just as hard to comprehend
You tell us naught of princes, kings or queens
But play the merry fool for hours on end.
For you, it's true that all the world's a stage
And all the rest of us, your audience
But you can't be contained upon a page;
No verse can hope to pen your immanence.
Yet here's a sonnet of my own confection
Writ on a card, to add to your collection.



*[Barbican Centre London, on a postcard of W Shakespeare.
This Lucy, or MiniLu, is niece to the Lucy of sonnets IX, XII, XV and others too personal to include
She was 12 and into collecting postcards at the time.]



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XIV

to Laura

in Chez Mario, Lausanne

7th May 1999


Sweet LAURA, like a slice of Garlic Bread
Brings happiness to everyone who meets her
And while I know I'll never share her bed
I CAN come here with her and eat a Pizza
I may be Crusty, with a Heavy Base
While she is Light and Crisp and no mistake
But, while I eat, I gaze upon her face
Imagining the kind of meal SHE'd make.
Spread with Tomato Sauce, then Melted Cheese -
Pour Chilli Oil on that delightful Topping:
Fine Wine from hidden Valley Slopes — Oh, PLEASE!!
I think perhaps it's time that I was stopping.
And, while this heavy meal of mine digests,
I'll dream of licking chocolate off her breasts.



*[Petrarch meets Shakespeare at Dai's place? Laura was one of Lucy's students]



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XVI

19th June 2003


‘Tis now so far from Heaven to my Heart
That no one makes the journey any more;
Though some, from Hope or Happiness, depart
They all give way to Heaviness before
They crest the Hill when it would first appear.
Then, should some Hardier souls attain that Height,
The view that greets them gives their souls no cheer:
They gaze from brightest day on darkest night.

And yet, within that murky Hole there are
Some spots where Hospitality burns bright:
A song, a dance, carousing in a bar,
Though all is lit by artificial light.
So if the trip seems daunting, just as well:
Better to love in Heav’n than rage in Hell.



*[Do not call the Samaritans. Rather like number XII, this is a poem and utilises much artistic licence.
In this case, I wrote it because I had the idea not because it reflected any self-pity.
Many people seem to assume poems always reflect true incidents or feelings, so I thought I'd better clarify
However I'm not very pleased with it, even though it plays with the classic sonata form, as the rhyme scheme has too many "ights"
and the last line tries too hard to sound a bit like Milton. Oh well.]



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XVII

On Buying Zoe a Book of Keats' Poetry

19th June 2003


Long have I wander’d in this Vale of Tears
And many beauteous women have I met:
Scarcely a single one among them yet,
But by some charm my tender heart endears.
So, when my love's account fell in arrears,
As if sweet Venus wished to claim her debt,
How strange my very soul should be beset
More strongly than before in all my years.

But looking into Zoe's eyes defeats
That tir’d old cynic who my mind imbues
So must I call on my old neighbour Keats
To help me frame a tribute to my Muse:
A gift more lasting than a bag of sweets —
And easier than jewell'ry to choose.



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XVIII

Sonnet a la Suisse

24th March 2004


——Cease this ‘poetic’ nonsense, stupid man!
——Stop acting like some macho Oscar Wilde!
Thus wrote the disapproving Marianne
Condemning me for ‘fooling’ with a ‘child’.
She knows not you, she understands not me:
She has not read a single, loving rhyme —
From hidebound moral code (or jealousy)
She chooses thus to brand our love a crime.
So add her to the ranks of those who balk
At our perceiv’d departure from their ‘rules’;
And if they wish to diss us, let them talk
Such gossip is mere prudery for fools.
Let them prejudge and criticise at length:
Our true affection goes from strength to strength.



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XIX

la bête inhumaine

1st May 2008


She keeps a creature locked up in a room:
A monstrous hound, perhaps, with blood-drenched jowls.
At night her sleep is shattered by its howls.
She knows to let it loose would seal her doom.
To anxious friends she'll say she doesn't care ~
Explain it all as wind or creaking floor
Or hang a painted curtain on the door
And try to tell herself there's nothing there.

But if, with trembling hand, she'd turn that key
And step into the darkness all alone
It's almost certain she would merely see
A tiny puppy ~ with a megaphone.
Thus do we all exaggerate the bark
Of lesser demons shut up in the dark.



Maybe this is inspired by musings on one sad case but doesn't it apply to many of us in one way or another?

Heavy, man!



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XX

It Never Rains


7th November 2008


It never rains nor comes as single spies
Fate's hammer never deals a single blow
As one new hope is born another dies
While woes accumulate like rolling snow.
How often for ourselves these pits we dig ~
Anxiety the light of reason bends
How plain it is our foes are not so big
When viewed without that blue-distorting lens.
You do the maths: let dry statistics prove
How evenly these things are distribute.
Perception's stains are bloody hard to move
Which reason should so easily refute.
These are but gristle in the karmic broth
Not punishments ~ nor even grapes of wrath




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XXI

Consolations of Solitude


19th November 2008


My solitude is really not so bad
Why would I want for other company
When company can only make me sad
While yours is not available to me?
Think of my tears as but a waterfall
Behind whose glistening, salty curtain lies
The cosy cavern of my care-worn soul:
Home to a precious flame which never dies.
Though from without it may seem dank and cold,
The walls within dance with effulgent light,
Lit by that priceless jewel that shines like gold
Whose vibrant rays can pierce the darkest night.
So fret not at my sorry-seeming form ~
'Cause I've still got my love to keep me warm.



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XXII

The Saddest Day?


2009


It’s hard to keep things always in perspective:
We use too glibly terms like ‘saddest’, ‘worst’;
But spare us from your bitterness’ invective,
O ye with lives by greater sadness cursed:
The death of children fills us all with woe.
And yet that fact can show us just how far
We’ve come since just a century ago,
With infant death life’s daily repertoire.
In nature, red in tooth and claw, not ‘nice’,
Where slaughter of the innocent’s immense;
The seal that mourns her pup, fresh-clubbed, on ice,
Will probably forget it, two days hence.
Thus evolution grinds us on its wheel
No matter how much sadness we may feel



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XXIII

Barthes et Baudrillard: Flashlights for the Few


2009


Some seem so proud to show off their new torches —
precision-made, cool features, shiny-bright.
Look how intense the beam; see how it scorches!
(Indeed, it seems to give more heat than light)
And even when the sun shines bright, these saddoes,
will draw the curtains, shutting out the day.
But sharper beams can cast much deeper shadows —
what use a light that only hides the way?
No: if our our lanterns only show confusion
or just illuminate our vanity,
what light will keep us from the blind illusion
that owning them is all we need to see?
What insights can we gain from observation?
That is the test of true illumination!

(and no excuse for public masturbation)


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XXVI

To a fellow sufferer


December 2010


MELISSA! You who needs to be adored
But find that life provokes you to deploy
Your beauty as a shield, your glance a sword
‘Admirers’ to deter or else destroy;
Does this persistent pressure to perform
Play merry havoc with attempts to find
The kind of love you need to keep you warm —
Contact, not with your body, but your mind?
We each know what it means to love too well
And keep that flame alive when hope seems lost
Our roles we polish till it hurts like hell —
True love permits us not to count the cost.
When adoration bears too high a price,
I hope my deep affection will suffice.



(Name changed to make less personal)
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XXIX

Hindsight Sonnet


25 February 2015


Some nights, she'd slip off silently to bed,
Not telling me she'd finished in the loo;
So I'd sit up, in indecisive dread,
Wary of hassling her by going too.
Was she avoiding sexual advance
Or seeking some much-needed solitude?
And why was I so scared to take the chance
That confrontation might be seen as rude?
Done tactfully, it can't have hurt to ask,
Instead of sitting, fretting, far too late,
For fear she'd think me 'taking her to task';
Could I not simply go to bed and wait?
To spot (too late to stop) that downward trend —
Look back to the beginning of the end.