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Michelle Bitting: Pandemic Mask Sonnet

~ with Wordsworth, Hayes, Millay


Nuns don’t fret and nuns can be like children—

Good at caring less than politicians

About having to wear linen cages, separating

Viruses and life, the song of the bird 

From the bone. The world’s gone mad at the wheel

While bees and seas soar for bloom, germs and chaos

Straining against reorder. Confess the shape

Of your arrogance. So. Money. So amorphous, watching

From the bleachers. Our awful servitude, says

Youth: Don’t panic! This fabric, this scanty plot 

Of ground our mouths’ dark box wrestles through words

For release can strike stars—a little room set aflame.

The prison unto which you’ve doomed our voice no prison is:

Love will be enough. Only that can’t be destroyed.

Copyright 2021 Michelle Bitting

Michelle Bitting’s many books include Nightmares & Miracles which won the Wilder Prize and will be published by Two Sylvias Press in 2022.

Michelle Bitting

8 comments on “Michelle Bitting: Pandemic Mask Sonnet

  1. Bartholomew Barker
    November 21, 2021

    I’m fine with it being called a sonnet. Any 14 line poem counts, as far as I’m concerned.

    Liked by 2 people

    • carter7878
      November 22, 2021

      B, of all the sonnet’s conventions, the 14 line “rule” may be the least traditional. There’s a tradition of 16-line sonnets. One question is how many conventions can you arbitrarily jettison before your sonnet becomes a son-not? The other is why bother? Why label your free verse poem a sonnet? I suspect poetic magpies are forever attracted to shiny pieces of tinfoil, transgressions camouflaged as innovation,
      novelties disguised as originality.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bartholomew Barker
        November 22, 2021

        As an easily distracted magpie, I’m comfortable dumping every convention if the result is something shiny. Let the grad students of the future sort it out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Zimmerman
    November 21, 2021

    Not a sonnet, per se, but “Love will be enough. Only that can’t be destroyed.” is ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • carter7878
      November 21, 2021

      No, Lisa, a single line is NOT a sonnet. Why label a son-not a sonnet? To rip off whatever cachet clings to the form? To pose as a bold and rebellious innovator? I don’t get it.


      • Lisa Zimmerman
        November 21, 2021

        The heart emoji meant the last line was lovely. It didn’t mean the last line was a sonnet.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jefferson Carter
    November 21, 2021

    Jeezus, this is NOT a sonnet. It’s a 14-line free verse piece. I get it’s fun to be transgressive, but calling a son-not a sonnet is plain silly.


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