Sonnet with Swan and Long Tall Sally

What if we’re the crux, the diamond linchpin?
What if creatures in other galaxies
have a vague sense that something is missing,
but don’t know it’s Little Richard, Shakespeare,
and cornbread with plum jam? They have their songs,
but like the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge, not
Exile on Main Street, or as if Monet
stopped painting before the water lilies;
their idea of sex is what dogs do or
Nixons. Their squidy eyes would see the most
gauche galoot of us as Baryshnikov
dancing Swan Lake on gold wires, dulcimer
strings over water. And for what that dark
lake is made of, their language has no words.

From Sonnets with Two Torches and One Cliff; first published in The Yale Review.

Robert Thomas’ latest book is Sonnets with Two Torches and One Cliff (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2023). His previous book Bridge was a lyrical novella published by BOA Editions, Ltd., and won the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction. His first book, Door to Door, was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa as winner of the Poets Out Loud Prize and published by Fordham University Press, and his second book, Dragging the Lake, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. He has received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and won a Pushcart Prize.

Robert lives with his wife in Oakland, California, in the house where he was born. He has lived many places in Northern California, including the North Beach, Russian Hill, Upper Market, Outer Richmond, and Inner Sunset neighborhoods of San Francisco. Following a distinguished tenure as a barista at Caffe Trieste (Allen Ginsberg said he made a great caffe latte) and a disastrous one as a waiter at Luigi’s, Robert worked for years as a legal secretary in San Francisco. One of Robert’s first inspirational teachers was poet Stan Rice, who loved to say “Neurons love metaphors,” “Pleasure measures,” and “If what you’ve written isn’t as good as Yeats’ ‘That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea,’ keep working.”