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Smith’s sonnet takes prize
Claude Clayton Smith, professor emeritus of English, continues to write. His entry, “A Sonnet for Old Glory,” won the sonnet contest of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minn.
Below is his entry:
A Sonnet for Old Glory
The flag was Uncle Lee’s. He fought in France
in World War I, inhaling gas that rolled
like fog along his trench—a ghostly dance
of chemicals that seared his lungs and told
his heart the bitter truth. No medicine
could make him whole, and so he spent his years
in V.A. hospitals, a veteran
of circumstance, the last of all his peers
to muster up and out. In Arlington
they buried him with gun salute and flag-
draped box, as if he’d actually won
that war because he missed the body bag.
Aunt Vera claimed the flag in ’53,
and when she died it somehow came to me.
The hand of Fate is swayed by Temperament,
let planets dance and stars swirl as they may.
We shape our days regardless of intent:
Thus Scott and Zelda loved without delay.
Though Time and Chance and Circumstance create
the pail of water, Jack and Jill must climb
the hill and laugh their way to Doomsday’s gate,
where broken crown and tumbling count as crime.
Our dispositions haunt us like bad dreams.
The past returns as if it knew the route—
and catalogues a litany of screams
we’ve heard before—to leave us mute.
If I could only leave my self behind,
Smug Temperament would never be unkind
—Claude Clayton Smith
Professor Emeritus of English
Ohio Northern University