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Bed Sonnets 

May 2022    Issue 299

When I saw Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Anne Hathaway," I confess that my first thought was that it was about the actress with that name. No, it is about William Shakespeare's wife, or more specifically about the bed he left her in his will.

He gave his wife, Anne Hathaway, his second-best bed. On the surface, that seems like an insult. Beds and other pieces of household furniture were often the sole bequest to a wife, because the common practice was for the best things to go to the children and the second best to the wife.

Duffy's poem is a sonnet written by Anne to her husband, the man known for his sonnets. It is about that second-best bed. (see Anne's bed)

It's not a formal sonnet, though it has 14 lines and a closing heroic couplet. We have called for sonnets twice before. Once sonnets in one of the sonnet forms and earlier we asked for sonnets that were less adherent to the forms but that focused on a specific topic. You might look at those earlier issues.

This month the call is for sonnets concerning beds. It is one piece of furniture that suggests many things - sleep, dreams, sex, escape, laziness...

Our minimal sonnet requirements are 14 lines and a concluding couplet. You may go for a full rhyme scheme, one of the sonnet forms, the 8 lines with a turn to the concluding 6 or any allusions to sonnets.
For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


A full teenager, I decide to brush off the dust
on a form that seems forced and old as well.
But the number seems appropriate and so I must,
with no girlfriend to whisper to, no one else to tell.

My black, bound book, fountain pen, my slow hand
moves to try to sum up a year that had no rhyme.
Illness and death, poverty - nothing in my command.
An uncle who said, "Things will get better in time."

Fourteen years and an equal number of empty lines.
A couplet trying to be heroic, a thought in a quatrain.
A singer tells me "I just wasn't made for these times."
I shunned the world this past year; lived in my brain.

To sum it up, the form requires, every thing is done,
at some point even if no battle, no love is ever won.

Charles Michaels


I knew I was back in Ripon only
by waking up beneath your hand-sewn quilt.
You didn’t ask me to explain Oshkosh.
I’m still in thrall of the scent of your bed.

Years before, I portaged to Lake Linda.
Embers cooled as stars brightened and I rose
to chirping and twig stems cracking, alone,
sated by sleeping on a pine straw bed.

Younger still, I made my way to Greylock,
my frenetic innocence suspended
at once, then dismissed for eternity.
The mountain doubled as my manly bed.

That Ripon morning was love’s grace defined.
That hand-sewn quilt, my romantic sublime.

Rob Friedman


How we ended up drunk
without a hotel room
and bribed a worker to let us
use a recently vacated room
with a funky unmade bed,
a tray of room service dinner,
and a half bottle of champagne.
We drank, ate, had sex and
joked about who did all that
before us and slept so heavily
that a morning maid woke us,
scolding in Spanish "administración."

I'm alone, lying in fresh linen moonlight
wondering in whose bed you are in tonight.

Pamela Milne


When I was young and good-looking, I mean really young
and good-looking, I was less interested in touching beauty
than just looking for the flaws and not finding any. So I didn’t
want to get in her pants because I didn’t know what was in her pants
and didn’t want to know. I just wanted to be around her and in
front of her and on every side of her, especially her good side.
So I showed her my stamp collection, and my coin collection,
and the nutcracker from Denmark with the carved wooden handles.
Then we sat together on my bed and I showed her my record collection
and didn’t give a thought to what two young and good-looking people
might do on a bed, or in a bed, at all, at all. I didn’t even have the balls
to ask her to dance as I sat there next to her on the bed listening
to the music and fidgeting with the nutcracker in my hands after she
had held it in her hands and admired it and handed it back to me.

Paul Hostovsky


Late at night my singleness—
a jalapeno when it’s light—
is luscious as a chocolate truffle.
I slip between the satin sheets
in baggy pants and mismatched socks,
a massive novel on my lap.
When sleep arrives, it always stays,
never chased away by snores
or shivers from a stolen quilt.
Kings and queens have always known
what others fail to comprehend:
preferring solitude in bed
does not suggest a lack of trust
and has nothing to do with love or lust.

Susan Spaeth Cherry


There were not enough beds for everyone,
so I slept behind my dad, broken wall
plaster letting in the cold in winter,
lights out when he tired of reading true crime,
those lurid covers sparking shameful thoughts;
later, when a brother moved out, a bed
in the attic, my own private space, where
I slept for years after deadening days
of work and school, dreaming of all the world,
a map on the pocked celetex above;
finally, my last sister married, I claimed
the third bed, master of the whole room,
where empty nights went by, one by one,
and mother called, long before the sun.

Robert Miller


They chose the bed. It was his idea
after their 30-year mattress began
to break her back. They lay on UltraFirm
together, spine to spine. But months later
he said enough; left her sleeping, to lie
on sagging front-room couch. She slept better
without him. Now the ratty couch is gone
to landfill. Hospital bed has taken
its place. Nurses and their aides come by turns,
and she changes his pullups and bedclothes
at dawn. Through forgotten midnights she lies
alone, down the dark hall lost in her deep
recuperation from each tossing night,
insomnia of not doing things right.

Taylor Graham


The night we met I bed you in a Fog
We listened to the music of the night
Large Hoot Owls harmonized with tiny frogs
Your sighs of pleasure singled your delight
The day we wed we bought a bigger bed
One made of hard work mixed with giddy dreams
We followed them with passion where they led
You wore new diamond earrings with bluejeans
The cancer they discovered changed the game
Just when we thought we'd gotten it just right
The bed we'd made now needed to be changed
Misfortune showed up looking for a fight
When my day comes, plant flowers on my grave
A bed to celebrate all those we made

Frank Kelly


While bridled passions temper fits of lust
true love settles like feathers in the grass
carried by breezes as light as dry dust
a torch ever constant whilst the years pass.
Our bed shimmers like hummingbirds and crows
whose luster shines on through filament plumes
unbound by conventions love’s bounty grows
confronting ordeals without dread or gloom.
Robust, resilient, through bleak stormy nights
four posts stand guard, canopy draped above
harmony buttressed against passion’s flights
we wear amour’s secrets true as a dove.

May paramour’s legions follow our lead
fluff downy quills, let enamored hearts feed.

Sterling Warner


(Before Montreal) In March of ‘69
Yoko and John
In their Hilton suite – no “do not disturb” sign
No stunt, no con
Just recently wed
Journalists invited
To come to their bed
Naively short-sighted
Love-in, bed-in
You take your pick
No sex, no sin
No prank, no trick
Make love not war – so easy they had thought
But the war went on; others to be fought

Terri J. Guttilla