John Lowther: 6 Sonnets

If you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language.
I usually try to keep my sadness pent up inside where it can fester quietly as a­­­ mental illness.
Compassion, guilt, empathy — they’re irrelevant.
How small you’ve become.
All I can do is pass the gift.
It’s the job of the young to push the societal envelope.
Somewhere without language, or streets.
Only pick your own locks or you could really get into a lot of trouble.
I don’t know about you but that sounds totally unsexy over here.


There’s a land to burn out everything that you’ve learned.
Make my body beg for it.
If you’ve already turned your nose up at this, then you can go fuck a light bulb backwards and unfollow me now.
I never thought I would be a prom queen.
You must have known I had nothing to lose.
I’ve been trained to walk off a heart attack.
It’s safer that way.
Differences do not threaten panoptic power; they feed it.
The gullible consciousness is late in relation with the lying consciousness, which is trying to maintain its advantage.


The number you have reached is not in service at this time.
Think of me as the Barbie you’ll never get to play with.
Don’t you dare lecture me about what I can and cannot do.
God does not judge so any flavor of ice cream should be fine.
When I’m a mess like this, doing errands is comforting.
We must introduce the idea of psychical space.
I love chaos, so I tend to push the limits of not planning.
It’s days like this that make surviving the overdose so worthwhile.
The heart’s filthy lesson falls upon deaf ears.


I hate my body naked.
Your mileage may vary.
There are no natural limits or functions for bodies or their parts, merely patterns of connection and operation that do not fall apart all at once.
The skin keeps the bugs out.
There is no ‘bone’ button.
This really revolutionary revolution is to be achieved, not in the external world, but in the souls and flesh of human beings.
Be my flesh baby.
It thinks through you, rather than being what you think.
I know by my own experience that it does.



Something spiritual.
I’m something like three years old my legs naked on my father’s knees and my penis bloody like the sun.
My bucket’s got a hole in it.

I’m not at all interested in the way the world is.
I am a trauma machine.
I just want it to be very cunty.

We are haunted by the possibility that our sense that we are conducting our lives is illusory.
The masses have never thirsted after truth.
This pile of shit has a thousand eyes.

You’re not phobic, really.
Yeah, god’s a good guy.


Make punk a thing again.
Let us not speak aesthetically about ethics as if it were a happy geniality.
Like a carny fun house.
It’s a way of thinking.
Don’t believe in yourself.
That closes the brackets.
My naked boob just fell out of my top in the fish and chip shop, in front of a food safety inspector.
And it’s beautiful work.
Ether is back, baby.
A glory hole no doubt.
This is the calling and task of every contemporary emancipatory politics.
Somebody might see us.




Note on the Text

555 is a collection of sonnets whose construction is database-driven and relies on text analytic software. I crunched and analyzed Shakespeare’s sonnets to arrive at averages for word, syllable and character (inclusive of punctuation but not spaces). These averages (101 words, 129 syllables, 437 characters) became requirements for three groups of sonnets. I collected lines from anywhere and everywhere in the air or in print in a database. The lines are all found, their arrangement is mine. Values for word, syllable and character were recorded. Typos and grammatical oddities were preserved; only initial capitals and a closing period have been added as needed. The selection of lines isn’t rule-driven and inevitably reflects what I read, watch, and listen to, thus incorporating my slurs and my passions as well as what amuses and disturbs me. These sonnets were assembled using nonce patterns or number schemes; by ear, notion, or loose association; by tense, lexis, tone or alliteration. Every sonnet matches its targeted average exactly. Think of Pound’s “dance of the intellect among words” then sub sentences for words—it is amongst these I move. The dance in question traces out a knot (better yet, a gnot) that holds together what might otherwise fly apart. I espouse only the sonnets, not any one line.



John Lowther’s work appears in the anthologies, The Lattice Inside (UNO Press, 2012), Another South: Experimental Writing in the South (U of Alabama, 2003), and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems (Negative Capability Press, 2015). Held to the Letter, co-authored with Dana Lisa Young is forthcoming from Lavender Ink.

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