John Godfrey

Two Sonnettes (Belles)

Heavenly bodies fritter
Trees, wads already shot, fold
Socks freeze, birds do too
Feel the eyes narrow
Poverty of shadow in the grove

Loftiness that holds me down
asks me to leave
Leap if you will and
decorate the impasse
Gray and silver coach on
the Parnassus Line Special
Rocks in pockets roll
up and down my thigh

Vision of her bath one night


Cock walk dark face jubilee
a block from childhood’s end
She learns in this life how
to wear her lively ghost
Those great big puffy cheeks
in upper lefthand
corner of the map
That’s a scarf waves
behind, not her hair

Fresh off crosswalk, canary
color cars, she molds
a bust on a sliding coin
out of taboo food
Scaffold corner, tread of Uggs
Styrofoam to warm her hands

Midnight and Your Glove

When I am a hostage and must
wear vestments of iron
After rescue from the submarine
it’s all hoopla, no layaway plan
Incendiary questions under lights
I catch an angina from buskers
and beat it to ask for your hand

Lamppost the color of machines that fly
Vapor light like spray-on wax
Now I take you where a dance begins
near a kitchen in front of the cooks
We take advantage of the flying color
and wings improvise as money
I can’t tell you’re alone with me

Pass over a small island
Look down at habitats of smokers
and follow with your eye a nymph
That’s what I do, it’s midnight
and your glove is a pumpkin
but your hand is the hand
and holds your head up so high

Through and Through

The way one heart shapes
the pillow of a scribe
Push back paper into trees
The shade’s too all-inclusive
and it beautifies the lamp

A female sailor on liberty
Yes, that was a death rattle
in addition to the scud of litter
The hollow sound of adversity
It might be the ring you wear

But she can always pretend
She can name the milestone, date
and fragrance of the coffee
She can tell what ails and
she’s easy to corrupt

A wreck is the perfect subject
It happens right after we are quits
The first one through the door deplores
modesty and gains nothing
Save it to propitiate the loanshark

The rumor comes home to roost
Harmony descends like a garment
Fragment carries in a trained voice
There’s always the risk of fainting away
and waking up pierced through and through


You hide the tears in a
Delta-blues wheelbarrow
The machine, it dreams
bipeds lose their shapes
in the sweep of headlights
We’ll discuss Jill when
you find your way back
Meantime, your nest egg
is gone, the Lurline
is decommissioned and
there’re not enough dogs
to go around and around

I tell her what exit to leave
the Belt, password entitles
and then pfft! gone
I want her for the way
she distances herself
On these grounds a few words

Weather-tailored waterproof
An awning is imaginary
You get wetter than I do
and that’s not your fate

The Last Touch

Whatever it constitutes
I’m not paying twice
I feel heavy to my feet
Intimacy would be a throne

Yesteryear’s sapling covers
in white, an austere season
exhausted, white to
fritter the sidewalk

I take you by the sedan
Your high-risk heels
What does she hear when
she puts her ear to Tasha’s

Red of pidgin, green for
obscene, yellow phrasing
Brown of grimey tales
Loud is two-tone orange

Rainy sleet ends, whispers
I feel my own ears over there
I have a concern over here
This hand is in question

Separation after the last
touch lasts, stage the size
of Town Hall’s, she backs
her way to wonder

Photo: John Sarsgard

John Godfrey

John Godfrey goes back a ways. He led workshops at the Poetry Project in ’76, ’82-’83 and ’13. He was a mentor ’16-’17. His last collection is The City Keeps: New and Selected Poems 1966-2014 (Wave Books, 20016).