The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle is a sonnet about the everlasting nature of love and how love conquers all. It was one of those poems that I wrote straight through, hardly stopping. The only pause, and the only real change, came in the last line.
In the last line, I originally used a different adjective than “honest”, but now I can’t remember what it was. I remember that I didn’t like it. Whatever word it was, it felt wrong, and it bothered me during the night.
The next day, I used a thesaurus to find a different word, and I settled very uneasily on “honest”. I’m still not sure that it’s the correct word, but months have passed, and I haven’t found anything better.
On the other hand, I liked the 4th – 8th lines even as I wrote them, and I still like them now. Those lines became, to me, this poem’s engine.
The clouds of passerines are brittle:
One sharp sound, or just the turn of a thrush,
Breaks them as easily as a forced committal.
But real love bleeds as red as indian paintbrush,
And will even alone wage war against armies
With white flags plied only as tourniquets
And no uncouth tactic too mercenary.
To such cogent arrears each heart is convinced of debt—
When innocent youth is mortgaged to adolescence—
That must be paid in full before death does foreclose.
Therefore each heart puts passion before common sense,
Folly before judiciousness, immodesty before clothes.
Still, ancient wisdom would rather be untruth,
Be forgotten, lost to desert scenes,
Than renege upon the human flower of youth
And the honest love of people’s most hopeful dreams.