Good Friday, Bleeding, sonnetized

Here’s what happened when I sonnetized the poem.

Blood will have blood, they say; have sons and lambs
asplay on altars stoked for conflagration.
The first-born sacrifices eased by rams
shall constitute a masculine salvation.
His blood is scapegoat blood for desert sands,
the serpent-on-a-stick that cures on sight;
his blood can heal when drawn from open wounds
by scourges, nails, Gesthemene’s dark night.
It’s not the secret blood that seeps from wombs.
His skin-blood’s river flows in open parts
and all can be changed or not, a carmine storm
that cleanses faces, sins and guilty hearts.
His death was public. Darkness fell at noon.
But mine is private, scouring insides clean.

It’s pretty dreadful as it stands. It’s not the first revision, but it was the one achieved by taking the sonnet-hints of the original and playing with them. What I don’t like is the reduction of the lines to pentameter; the lengths of the original — which ranged from the rare pentameter to octameter every now and then — thickened the poem, which embodied the thickness of the subject. Blood isn’t a thin substance, and particularly not menstrual blood, but this sonnet seems too thin as it stands.

What’s more, the added quartet (His blood is scapegoat blood for desert sands … scourges, nails, Gesthemene’s dark night.) seems grafted on clumsily. I tried to smooth over the join by changing the voice, changing the tale a little, making the poem about contrast, specifying more (turning “this blood” into “his blood” — a small change, but weighty), but it’s changed the connotation. When you get the words “his blood” in a poem about blood and Good Friday you wander into cliché-land.

And I’m not sure that it’s saying quite the same thing. The poem’s about blood, but its purpose is to contrast male and female bleeding. There’s the saying that you should never trust anything that bleeds for five days and stays alive; well, the original was partly about that — in the ballpark, anyway, if not on home base. This is a far more openly religious poem, which is what the “his” seems to achieve.

I am not happy with this in the least. If I knew more about sonnets I’d try something in hexameter or heptameter, but I don’t know. I’ll return with alternative revisions and continue to play with them.

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