Excerpt for Sonnetation by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Carson Gardner

Published by Carson Gardner at Smashwords

Copyright 2018 by Carson Gardner

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I am an enthusiastic amateur poet. I did not begin seriously writing poetry until after a shocking grief in young adulthood. I have been writing poetry now for nearly 40 years. I have had poems purposefully published in local venues, and on very rare occasions accidentally published in national venues. I had fleeting and unremunerative success, as a lyricist, decades ago; helping garner a young folksinger a national award.

I have avoided the unsettling chore of writing sonnets—that is, until the toll of years apparently impaired my better judgment. Since attempting the sonnet, I have discovered—actually masochistically enjoyed—the challenge of twisting my mind around the arbitrary Shakespearean form. My sonnets are not elegant, virtuosic, or perfect. But they are a candid peak into the unguarded, semi-unconscious thoughts of an eccentric, socially-clumsy loner who learned how to bluff his way through forty years of street-level helping response to others’ personal pain and fear—caring a lot, but being a bit fluently-autistic about it. This sonnet collection is not about those many I struggled to help in small, compassionate ways. That work would fill a three-volume set, be much more fascinating than these sonnets, and would only be publishable HIPAA-posthumously. Don’t worry—no such writings, by me, exist.

I have, only recently, formally achieved the daunting goal of actually completing one hundred one (101) sonnets—an achievement similar to jumping from a second-story window 101 times, without a net. May you choose an easier, more accessible, less-bruising obsession than this. The 101 are here for your perusal—plus a few more. I do not care to have you critique them. But, if you intend to do so, then—before you do so—try to write even one yourself. William Shakespeare’s ghost can, I am confident, ably judge us both.


May your obsession be more mild than this,

much easier, more sensible, and clear;

perhaps one hundred crocodiles to kiss,

or something quite as dangerous to steer.

May fate not burn a sonnet on your blood,

nor drive the fourteen rhyme-spikes through your hands;

not boil you in iambic-lava mud,

nor cinch the five stigmata, thorny bands.

Iambic penta-meter flows from hell;

and, if you doubt me, just one time do dare.

May God have mercy on your tortured knell,

and grant eternal sleep to nerves ground bare.

Ha, ha, I’m only kidding you on sonnet;

the truth is far, far worse than my take on it.



1. Again

2. Alive

3. Anishinaabe by the Numbers

4. At My Word

5. Ballistic

6. Best Friend Forever?

7. Between the Bookends

8. Big Drum

9. Blessed Inconvenience

10. Bobbed Craw-Fee

11. Bodhi Tree and Lotus

12. Brush Off the Dust

13. But Here Each Day

14. Can’t Make Heaven

15. Cane Do

16. Cedar Healing

17. Circles

18. Convert

19. Count on This

20. Counting Inventory

21. Damn Sure, Will

22. Define This Progress

23. Deuced-Good

24. Direction Sense

25. Electric Insight

26. Epiphany of Peace

27. Eye-Shield Wool

28. First One-Hundred-One

29. Fly High, Thunderbirds

30. For an Hour or Two

31. From a Speck

32. Heart-Light On

33. Heart-to-Heart

34. Heart-Touch Patterns

35. I Carry On

36. Impact Sonnet

37. In Cluttered Rooms

38. Internal Commentary

39. Just Dumb Beasts

40. Just Once, for Joy

41. Just One More

42. Land That Moves

43. Laundry Duds

44. Lifelong Friends

45. Man in Wheelchair

46. Man of Fire

47. Morning Choices

48. Morning Prayer

49. My Form

50. Namby-Pambic

51. No Fool

52. No, Jesus Didn’t

53. Not Rusty

54. On That Thought

55. On This Because

56. One Hand Basket

57. Opwaagan Prayer

58. Orientation

59. Patterns Roots Will Weave

60. Phone

61. Pipestone Carver

62. Rap-Trap

63. Rhyme the Race Humanity

64. Rover

65. Safe House

66. Save That Sorry-Ass

67. Sawubona

68. Shirty Situation

69. So These Bloodstains Say

70. Sometimes A Circle

71. Sonnetation

72. Sonnet-Gain

73. Speak and Think and Pray

74. Spring Snow

75. Spring Thing

76. Surveyor

77. Sweatlodge

78. Talking Circle

79. This for Those

80. This Moment

81. Through Dog Door

82. Thunderbolts

83. Till Then

84. To Paramedics’ Ear

85. To Walk in Beauty

86. Trust My Coffee

87. Truth Born

88. Two Mirrors

89. Unearthly Prism

90. Unskilled

91. What Ellipsis Hid

92. What If

93. When It’s Done

94. When That Guy Sings

95. Which Dog

96. Who I Am

97. Who Will Love My Child?

98. Will Not

99. Will Shakespeare’s Prenup

100. Will’s Curve

101. Yet I Love You

102. You Show Up, Try, Be Honest

103. Zennet




Forgiveness is a process, not an act;

some don’t deserve it much, while others do.

Some don’t believe they need it, when in fact

some others beg to have it right on cue.

Let forgiveness at each moment be complete;

each moment, to forgive, doubt must bumped.

We humans fail, then fail in quick repeat—

we find our best intent by folly trumped.

Most candid humans honestly agree

the same mistake again, again, again—

plus no remorse—hints sociopathy;

that is, until they’re snared in folly’s pen!

Forgivers and forgiven stand to gain—

but we all crave help, from folly to refrain.



Mediocre sonnets, should they be erased

by picky English teachers of the world?

That fate would be more crime than simply waste,

grammar bigots’ biased flag unfurled.

The goal of teaching CPR is not

to fail the clumsy student in his need;

but rather to encourage, in tight spot,

attempt to make a timely try in deed.

Just so with sonnet: clumsy truth intense

deserves a rescue breath, compression too.

Who knows if Shakespeare’s first quatrains made sense

to any but himself in starkest view?

In CPR, ALIVE is street success;

don’t bitch at gaffes Will Shakespeare’s smile would bless!



Anishinaabe by the numbers claiming:

there’s ZERO hell except what humans make,

there’s ONE God known by many lists of naming,

TWO worlds connected, Earth in Heaven’s wake.

THREE questions asked at time of each life’s ending,

FOUR gifts are given each new life to be;

FIVE medicines the greatest healing sending,

SIX directions form the world our eyes can see.

SEVEN teachings all good lifeways giving,

EIGHT fires will bring destruction or great peace;

NINE promises for daily Red Road living,

these numbers share our truth that will not cease.

To learn these truths from ZERO up to NINE

requires a circle dance but no straight line!



I don’t speak for anyone besides myself,

I don’t front for any discipline or sect;

Don’t like me? Put me back up on the shelf;

I’m not here to be politically correct.

A sonnet’s like a séance built for one,

the medium one’s own subconscious mind;

to make the rhyme may offer truths that stun,

it’s all about the hidden words you find.

Is it self-hypnosis? I don’t think it so.

It’s focus absolute, soliloquy;

a sonnet makes one curse, give up, or grow—

and dredge up more than merely mystery.

Amazing, psychic sediment that’s stirred;

just count on it, you can take me at my word.



I guess I’m far too happy with these sonnets,

I should toss the whole bunch out and start again;

but I’d wash out some self-righteous redo on it,

or forget exactly why and how and when.

I’ll never score that PhD in English,

not to mention just a bachelor’s degree;

Will Shakespeare found that sonnets made him tinglish

when he set what needed saying truly free.

I’ve set my sights on claiming my collection—

so far, my dream has held attention span;

I’m damned if I’ll be pushed in some direction

that won’t let me say the things I know I can!

Self-loyalty may seem too narcissistic;

but to my own self I’m true—don’t go ballistic.



Yes, “Insecure as hell,” makes sense to me—

I crashed there when from family exiled;

in private hell of insecurity

begun when I was orphaned as a child.

Yes, most such kids with bravado respond;

but I did not—I lived in terror stark.

Not one to trust, no hope with which bond;

afraid of so much more than just the dark.

Then boarding school provided by a church,

you know the story such a place can spin;

a kid quite terrified and in the lurch,

who learned that he was stained by filthy sin.

In such conditions, seems quite odd—but true:

Best friend forever? Gichi Manidoo.



Do exactly what you’re told and nothing more—

no exception, innovation, leap-of-muse;

and you’ll achieve in time and sweat and chore

the doing only what they thought you’d choose.

Do only what you damn-well yearn to do—

no nod to justice, mercy, lessons past;

you’ll be remembered only for—quite true—

becoming crippled, dreaded, laughed at last.

Between the bookends, apathy and lust,

wait discovery, adventure, challenge, hope;

in fellowship, respect, and well-shared trust

is archived creativity’s full scope.

Don’t label balance some grim, forced extortion—

imagine inspiration’s grand proportion.



Though sad to say it, once upon a time

Ojibwe and Dakota bathed in blood;

in hate we killed each other—vengeance crime;

and cost both nations new life in the bud.

Creator could not watch atrocity,

so sent Dakota woman teaching dream;

Big Drum—she shared it, set her people free

from hate’s dark cell with healing mercy’s stream.

And then, much harder, Wakan Tanka dared

to ask she gift this healing from the Bwan

to Anishinaabe enemies—God cared

to make sure no more slaughters carried on.

And, so, near hundred fifty good years after

we love, help, share, tease, braid our healing laughter.



Your friendship is a blessed inconvenience!

I’m laughing at my own reclusive haze.

Whatever made you look on me with lenience?

I’m unsocial in so many stubborn ways.

You stopped one day, my long-avoided neighbor,

and helped me out as I did not deserve;

and then you did an irritating favor;

you shared my solo hobby—goddamn nerve!

We’re poles apart on most ways of male bonding,

you’ve got loads of friends while I stay safely cloaked;

yet you show kids how to chase dreams worth responding,

and call from states away with stories stoked.

I swore I’d never be a friend again;

but, blessed inconvenience, I’m your friend!



The experts say they call this stuff Bobbed Craw-fee;

if you don’t know why, then you may miss a taste.

It’s damn good, damn strong, damn eccentric coffee;

It’ll bob sleep’s tail and clear a mind that’s spaced.

Mix three dark brands from store with antler logo.

Proportions? If I told you I’d be canned!

But do not skimp or limit cost to BOGO;

for this brew, hi-test premium demand.

And then the strangest thing for ever countin’—

remember Big-Rock Candy Mountain song?

That’s right, you use a soda-water fountain,

the tap or filtered H2O is wrong.

Cook it up until it’s hot as lava—

that’s how you turn out great Bobbed Craw-fee java!



There’s nothing I could do or say or dream

to give my life inherent place and worth,

Great Spirit, in your vast eternal stream;

mortality the bounds of my small Earth.

My mortal consciousness so brief and small,

my mind and body fragile, plain, and lame;

there is no reasoned chance for me at all

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