Sonnet L’Abbé

< Back | TOC | Next >

Four Aggrecultured Sonnets


Agricultural instinct means the Jersey’s lowing moves no hands to stall the butcher’s meat supply. Dairy farmers know cows. A bovine mother’s time is meted in jugs; her periods and estrous cycle are the cattle managers’ headache. How can rushed and overworked women moan when Holsteins’ udders have been drained by machines, their metestral blood analyzed, their heads filled with promises of good breeding? How can old wives—who, despite their lines and wrinkles, who, despite long ago having passed youthful mountability, remain husbanded, thwarting procreative natural laws—denounce the mechanized production age? Even some ants know to keep honeydew-anused aphids wingclipped and herded. The animals do agricultural things: who says we are no better than hunters if we consume cow flesh? My vegan friend scoffs at anyone who eats meat or drinks anything dairy, but every now and again she ingests cheese, forgives herself a nice salmon quiche. She doesn’t understand why more folks don’t fight the system that milks; she’s also a lesbian programmer who gets barfy at the mention of pregnancies, nursing, amniotic fluid, thick discharges, antepartum hemorraghing. Foremen eat such atrocities for breakfast. Farmers don’t entertain the cow’s discomfort: if they can’t get an instrument comfortably inside far enough, they’ll find another instrument. Language is the cruel knife that cuts human umbilicalness forever, cutting from memory mommy’s wetbreasted lovetaste from boys’ ejaculatory thoroughbreeding. Sodomy loves horses; we like to forget. Between the city and the supermarket is the Bible, cautioning country bucks to husband but clean animals, reminding the breeders not to mate siblings. Girls act like fillies, like nice workhorses, hoping to be seen and bought. Their milky breasts have full lives underneath. Meanwhile, ladies in shopping centres find their pumping in public still aggravates leathery men.



Just after last call, queer kids wasted on Havana Brown’s beats, Pet Shop Boys extended versions, Whitney remixes, and Ricky Martin drum n bass edits, the DJ brings it down for the night to a smooth reggae rhythm. Millenials, used to having such a safe club as Orlando’s Pulse to show their pride, dance with friends, gay and straight. Then gunshots. Or maybe not — firecracker dancehall? Badly introed snare? Rivera turns off the music. Yes – Omar Mateen’s pow-pows ricochet through the Latin-night crowd. Hellscape. Running. Swath of bloodpath. Mayhem in the dark; huddled patrons crammed inside the bar try to text the outside world. These bullets fan from semi-automatic weapons bought with a firearms license. Omar, security officer, no record, calls nine-one-one to swear allegiance to the leader of ISIL. He locks in on crying sounds; walks over glass. In the bathroom window there appears the gunman’s face; the cops shoot at him. First round over, he goes into hostage mode. He yells blunt invective into his phone as quaking, muted, watchful people lie still, hoping he will pass them by. He calls police negotiators and Orlando news, saying America disgraced itself by bombing Wahid. “Triggered,” he insists. Not the “sinfulness,” then, of public demonstrations of Latinx friends loving Latino men drove a closeted Omar to the act to subject a ninety-three-percent-Latinx clutch of bodies? For revenge, that was why, “Miguel” will inform reporters — for no other passion but immunoviral payback. My verses attend to thinking amends for the fuckery our grandraces passed on, but this tragedy is our generation’s clusterfuck: the safe space as territory and target, the masced bully of American identity. There is more, much more, erased relation than in my verse can sit. Your own glass shows your queer brown likeness when you look in it.



To me, you were a freaky, fairskinned father figure of song. Uncensored lyricist, your naked verse caressed my unnubile, ten-year-old, deflowerable ecstasy. How young we were when first we heard of your eye caught by Nikki masturbating in a hotel lobby. Aphrodisical purple synth chords, electronic hymns to funk, your androgynous beauty lashed titillating, throaty sex at nuclear winters’ and cold wars’ threat. A little red Corvette drove me from the conformist interests of schoolbooks into the Revolution’s love manifesto. I hummed verses of Purple Rain as I developed breasts. The mixed-race, liquid-gender vibe, the auteur-pompous sparkles and rings topped charts. Funky fellow, pre-autotune imp spinning turntable gold, you inspired sensuous excess. Pop rock father, sugar daddy, my innocence was lost to the sounds of Head and doves crying. I seduced a girl in the recreation room of her parents’ split-level: bubblegum perfumes, pink skin, thrilling tongues—soft, wet, hot juvenilia. Madonna’s crosses burned; her sinfulness commoditized was our first fetish; meanwhile your fresh mouth was horrifying rich-mommy-and-senatorial-ball-buster Tipper Gore. Parental advisories hadn’t yet happened; your “filth” was labelled vulgar by purity police; kids learned to dig albums authorities branded explicit. Stealing from Little Richard, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Elvis, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Bowie, at a pace hyper would call hyperactive, you dropped so many tracks your label sweated. The unpronounceable symbol which became your thing (on your cheek, “SLAVE”) frustrated music journalists lacking adequate font for the-artist-formerly-known-as. A soundless glyph as the artist’s name was contractual insurrection. Masculined feminine, eyelined manly babe, decimating categories of groove, defy mortality!  Hush our fears of life-without-Prince. Shh, fears of this opioid-strutted age. The Purple One vibrated at a mauver level. Pleasures of you were born while he was. His bedroom, a butterfly sanctuary. Man, a sexy motherfucker’s dead.



This was not unimaginable to my brown fears. Brown folk grok the prophetic soul of the wide world, which downstreams white dreams banking on things to come. Now uncanny poets breathe please into the foamy truthscape: a slough of voters glommed control; the not-supposed-to have seized the pen. The civil sheen forfeits its command of our military, complex, offshore-industrialized doom. The immortal moon watches Earth-weather eclipse itself; undercurrents surface. The comedians and the sad augurs mock their own prescient, cynical guesses; insane certainties now crown themselves; we are assured a brand of peace protest cannot sully. Last night, we commoners watched as our livid selves peeled back the skin off an endless rage. One by one, win after win, the states clothed themselves in red. Shocked reporters read off the figures in failed emotionless tones—in a disturbed calm, stunned by the unfolding cataclysm. The enemy was suddenly us, those we loved, those who look like us—the fresh wound to nice ladies’ psyches, the death of their comfortable superiorities—as liberals cried, liberals saw their own race. In spite of him, we will have to live in this poor version of America, while he insults history and principle, roaring dull and fatal speech. Something elected this: something tribal and scared, something branded and thugged. How, multitudes, can we, in this unreality show of alternative good, find each other? How long, Liberty, will your monument stand, when a tyrant’s cronies boast of civil liberties’ ban? Poets drop their f-bombs in dissent, while official-lipped brass bands air-kiss the next Best President.


Sonnet L’Abbé, Ph.D. is the author of A Strange Relief and Killarnoe, and was the 2014 guest editor of Best Canadian Poetry. Her chapbook, Anima Canadensis, was published by Junction Books in 2016, and won the 2017 bpNichol Chapbook Award. In her next collection, Sonnet’s Shakespeare, L’Abbé “writes over” all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. L’Abbé is a professor of Creative Writing and English at Vancouver Island University.