Susanna J. Sturgis    


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The Bullfight Sonnets

". . . but you might remember
Whether I cheated my father for you
and tamed the fire-breathing
Brazen-hoofed bulls . . ."
-- Euripides, Medea

In razzle dazzle gold brocade he flicks
his hips and flaunts his cape before
His Majesty, the Bull. The matador
is teasing anger from his beast with tricks
of red muleta, dancing hands, and love.
The judges, cool, care most for grace,
for elegance of form. From death's embrace
they cut an ear or two, a tail, and give
them to the hero. Novelists extol
the crowd, the sun, the blood, the kill, the role
of manhood challenged and found worthy. I
am less enthralled. Instead, I wonder why
cerebral critics desperately admire
heroes who hold their shit when under fire.

The horned god, cloven-hoofed god, god who dies
to fertilize the land: These bulls are raised
for war, for fierce and noble spirit praised,
admitted to the plaza, given right
to charge a man in front of other men.
In razzle dazzle gold he flicks his cape
before you. Do you know you can't escape,
that if you kill, they still won't let you win?
This turf they chose for you; it isn't yours.
It's just a stage. Enthusiasts devour
each act and howl for more, more tails, more ears,
more bulls, and if the matador is gored,
there's more suspense. Safe behind the fence,
they thrive on blood and killing elegance.

A poem should stand on footnotes, not on hooves.
Unyielding as an uncracked code, a poem
should float above the crowd, opaque, alone,
till critics can elucidate its truths.
Professors tease entendres from the words,
insist no line can mean just what it says.
To earn attention, poets acquiesce
and write obscurely; sonnets fall unheard
beyond the tiers of educated men.
Admitted to the ring, a chance conferred
to wield the cape, a woman undeterred
by challenge yet is disconcerted when
her new position calls for killing bulls.
She hones her sword. She knows who makes the rules.

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