Six Sonnets

by Erik Fuhrer

Voyage Out Sonnet 17

Artists sat looking into the fire three months ago, eyes leaning

out of windows, looking at the lights beneath them, in a brisk

argument, the fire announcing

the glass compressing light

let into a high yellow wall. On balconies

the streets gathered plaster figures where footpaths pushed

in on private columns of shadow, swept across

deep armchairs, occasionally speaking. A flourishing voice

lost throats tapping, the old rooms creeping

with plump strokes plucking heads in the hall

haunted with electric light, congratulating a cold stone

room with the people scattered, humming somewhat cadaverously.

Luck spectacled lips among ordinary faces,

fixed upon someone unobserved on the gravel.


Voyage Out Sonnet 18

An hour grew box-like above.

Fifty people could be heard reading: a swishing

sound such as that when one turned out the light. An egg-box

is like brushing hair. Love, being glass, wondered

what play followed the evening seclusion.

The hour had been known to jump

into bed: unkindly beauty, the square

ugly hand of the world.

A lawn tennis feeling is not quite prayer.

A cows knees are tall grass. A glance

accustomed to squares of starlight could distinguish

a voice brushing teeth from the faint pulse of an electric

bell woken hungry in the shade of a cigarette marching

through hours with large naked feet.


Voyage Out Sonnet 19

Love from below the pyramid undressed the pathos of stooped bones

sitting to attention with cut toe-nails. They draw circles

round odd conclusions, angular brushing into fireplace silence.

A wonder that the ghost had never heard of love. A knocking

collecting thick waltzes spun into infinity. The truth concluded something

about auras, a speck in the middle of people stretching to full width.

The universe was foolish to try observing people. Grasshoppers

slowly dropping to the floor, padding softly

after hours of pressing into silence. People breathing

wakeful darkness shadowed the empty street yellow

rocking. Owls blowing earth robbed of colour. A profound beauty

swam the smoke upon the uncurtained house drifting

up the fireside. Shook eyes remarked the pleasant voice searching flat

mountains, moved off to the streets, weather beaten and sorrowed.


Voyage Out Sonnet 20

The soil disguised dawn. All creatures eat roses.

An interesting face grunted a mess

of brawling questions, ashamed at the discoveries

people founded. A cat interrupted all answers, noticed

hunger neglected. A tongue ought to walk in the heat

and bones lay upon the floor. A creature withdrew teeth and opened

the crown of life. Sketches help exhaust colour which wandered

the hall. Bears cook in confinement and flutter away.

A minute wheezed itself into a frenzy. There was a pause.

Then, silent legs seated at a small table.

Fruit sliced the human spirit in different corners of

the body, anxious in the looking-glass. Silver light fatiguing

fish who despise tea. Yellow dogs handed parrots private histories of pain.

Cascades of eggs lit a cigarette. A cow mumbled, suggested dinner.


Voyage Out Sonnet 21

Promises cut off play. Sanctuary became judgement when shut

into deserted imaginary worlds. Trunks of heroic statues play-acted

amusement and became the crossways of the human being.

The window went on thinking of interminable gardens trusted

to be candid and discouraged in shiny yellow gilding

wrangling facts with curious words made of wood. Remodelled

adventures recast a regular rhythm. Unspeakable queerness in the middle

of the world, moving life. Dissolution sat perfectly still at the same spot

that continued ticking mechanically in persistent knocking with a tall human

saying utter absurdity into a room of absent-minded books. Ghosts began to run

in eyes rather surprising and dreadfully dull. The messenger

was an answer. A great intellectual has enabled eight spots of pebbles

sitting one leg over the opposite. Mountain-sickness interrupted the society

of chilled earth. Human beings reflected a field, stirring cities out of love.


Voyage Out Sonnet 22

A human had been chosen as a shady spot conveniently flat

between trees. Young men out of place held shaken hands awkwardly. Donkeys

arrived by degrees with people and hoarse animals, marshalled

a sharp ascent like leading troops into action. Sharply stretching,

donkeys introduced sensible fear. Flattened with squares of grey, towns obscured the sea.

The sky grasshoppered the ear. Grim men smoke life

at the doomed city. Laid eggs hint midday, foretold hotly until earth

fell wavering and tossed eyes hobbling upon bodies in grumbling expeditions.

The figure wore silence turning eyes on hooves, stretching

an arm towards a stump of forest merging in a river. The hand

of the compass brought them to plastered shapes of earth broken in the face.

Lights watched play describe odd situations, conscious of looking-glasses.

Creatures pouring down ruins on the back of hands sting.

Explanatory Note: These poems are from a longer work titled The Voyage Out Sonnets, a page by page erasure of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out. During the process of erasure, I moved chapter by chapter and then formed what I had into 50 experimental sonnets. Solmaz Sharif has convincingly linked poetic erasure to government censorship, which every erasure project certainly risks replicating. Woolf herself had to censor herself in her novel in order to get published. Since the intent of this project is to celebrate rather than censor, I was careful and mindful not to redact but to highlight Woolf’s words. Rather than physically blackening out words during my process, I left Woolf’s original text clean and instead circled words that I believed revealed the multiple possibilities in the original text. I highlighted language over narrative and provided agency and voice to animals and inanimate objects, which Virginia Woolf often does herself in her later work, such as “Kew Gardens.” For the most part, I did not add anything to the text, with the exception of the rare addition of an “s” at the end of a word. I also occasionally cobbled together a word from individual letters. That said, Woolf’s individual language remains mostly intact and unadulterated in these poems, which intend to pay homage to Woolf’s original text.

 Erik Fuhrer is a Pushcart Prize and Best Microfictions 2018 nominee. He holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and his work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Maudlin House, Ghost City Press, Cleaver, and Softblow. He tweets @Erikfuhrer and his website is

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