Jane

by Mitchell Geller
Desert Moon Review
First Place, February 2012
Judged by John Timpane


My sister’s beauty would often elude
that hide-bound glance which is apt to respond
to harebell eyes, to the bland and the blonde.
(Her hair was dark, her skin was amber-hued.)
Some folk would dismiss her as under-sized—
so slight was she, no more than seven stone ;
and yet, to me, it seemed that she had grown
enough. For me, her stature emphasized
her changeling charms. A pocket Venus needn’t
be taller than she was. Her DNA
seemed right to me in every single way,
the gift of some Baltic, Jewish antecedent.
And no expenditure would seem too dear
to see her smile—however briefly—here.


Why wouldn’t first prize go to a sonnet? Why not? A good sonnet was always hard to write, and in our day, when a lot of sonnets are written with a look over the shoulder, this does away with the self-consciousness and simply presents a heartfelt poem. Although written with masterly skill, it isn’t tediously circumspect. It has fun with the rhymes (hurrah for needn’t and antecedent!) but isn’t afraid of an end-stopped line or a perfect rhyme. It goes beyond witty and disarming to being right. What’s best is that this sonnet is so direct. It’s a very vague recollection of the faux-apologetic “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” gambit: “Well, some folks would have had this criticism of her coloring or stature, but I liked her anyway.” Except this is a sibling to a sister, and it is a declaration of love, and it makes no bones about it. It’s fresh, it challenges dumb ways of seeing human beauty, and it breaks our damn hearts in the last line. --John Timpane

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