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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.

To Temperament

  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