Robert Thomas: “Sonnet with Purgatory and Scratch”


Just once you let yourself go, just enough

to let me know what I was missing all

the other times. The you you let go flowed

out of the you who let go; the jazz band

leader cued the alto sax to solo,

take all the time she wants. You played the hell

out of that tune, turned it into a blue

velvet purgatory more beautiful

than any heaven’s harp plinking a fugue.

That once, you did it to my percussion.

You dovetailed my rhythm. It was my snare

drums and cymbals, my steel pans, my woodblock

and windchime, my glass harp and gutbucket.

To my brush and scratch you kept such smooth time.

Robert Thomas’s first book, Door to Door, was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the Poets Out Loud Prize and published by Fordham University, and his second collection, Dragging the Lake, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Thomas has received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Pushcart Prize. His poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Field, Iowa Review, New England Review, Poetry, Southern Review, and many other journals.

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