John Lowther

Sonnets from 555

I only cry wolf when all my sheep are dead.
I don't think I have screwed anything up.
I wasn't rash, but often reckless.
I still can't believe we pulled this off.
I bit the keys off the teacher’s piano.
I keep poking poking poking and voilà.
I didn't get scared at the end at all.
I am nothing but I must be everything.
I said, but I felt like shit saying it.
I thought someone would follow suit.
I never called a balk in my life.
I was always in the margin of it.
I think they was waiting on nuggets.
They misinterpret everything I say.


We will no longer be able to side-step the consequences of what we choose to say.
We were lied to.
We make ourselves ourselves, of course we do, but it is always a making over.
We can’t walk out on this.
We are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.
We are good for nothing, and because we are good for nothing, we are good for
               nothing, and wish to be good for nothing.
We do not have to take this.
We want to touch the bestial, to get up close and tremble, but we don't want any collateral damage.
Some are not.


Go google me.
I’m organic.
Like a pizza.
Real boys are scarce nowadays.
Me included.
I wipe my ass with your feelings.
Lunch is over.
The phrase ‘man up’ seems solidly part of this tradition, assuming a fixed, knowable core to manliness.
You say that you like me, but believe me, you don’t like me, you instinctively detest the animal that I am.
This rectal trespass causes indescribable pain.
But it’s also the truth.
Brilliantly executed.
I am a star because I have always felt so alienated and I project this feeling to others.


It is thought the biggest perpetrators are simply unaware of the damage they cause.
Familiarize yourself with notion of hyperbole and then shoot yourself in the face.
Being an expert in mental illness is like being an expert about ghosts and unicorns.
Drove 90 miles then started making a loud, single thunk noise when applying brakes.
When one begins to take words as one's vehicle, one finds oneself quickly in a trap.
People who are into bestiality are fucking animals.
The character of the artist or author is irrelevant.


Men want to be this doll, women want to be with this doll.
Nature dangles sex to keep us walking toward the cliff.
Regardless, the pressure is clearly having an effect.
It seems as if something is always just about to happen.
Someone has been sharing contact information again.
It means giving up all hope of making a better past.
I don't think either of them was ready to face that.

A solution that is going to work only for you.
You can make a career out of being yourself.

Those who kill snakes get killed by snakes.

Don't get off yet.


We were just playing tummy swords.
You missed the boat a long time ago.
No other group, that’s what group.
One may see or fly through a tunnel.
But this, like modern bathing and dancing practices, is only possible because the level
               of habitual, technically and institutionally consolidated self-control, the
               individual capacity to restrain one’s urges and behavior in correspondence
               with the more advanced feelings for what is offensive, has been on the whole
Girls welcome, boys preferred.
Both are problems.


Life is death sentence.
I was shocked to my core.
I didn’t want to lose it.
I didn’t want it to stop.
I adore fatal beauties.

It’s a structure for animals that are awake only at night.
We had never had a serious conversation about anything.

I was neck deep in a river.
And escape, inescapable.
Evil is never abstract.
But maybe it'll skip us.
Study each queen closely.

All this thinking is too hard.
We repress what bothers us.

Now stay with me here.
Not nouns, but verbs.
Not a motion towards.
No patience for that.
It was just club sex.


I think you have to control the materials to an extent, but it's important to let the materials
               have a kind of power for themselves; like the natural power of gravity, if you are
               painting on a wall, it makes the paint trickle and it drips; there is no reason
               to fight that.
I think it’s the only difference that might matter.

I think that having a fantasy life is important.
I think you can go overboard with security, but I still throw the deadbolt when I'm away or asleep.
I think they're holding.
Indecision is definitely a sign of indecision.
It's made of eggshells and concrete.


First off, let’s get rid of this average Joe, who does not exist.
I prefer not to participate in this dreary masculine protest.
The patient refused autopsy.
There is both potential for freedom and for interpellation.
The attacked, as well as the attackers, skirt around the word.
On account of all it conceals.
For us, those conventions are ruin, those tools are death.
You could say that I positively hate positive thinking.
Oh right, self control, I have that.
Maybe it is the other who is roaring.
I’m fixin’ to beat your ass.


Most of you will inadvertently kill someone in the next year.
I’m sure you’re dying to know.
Here, have a crude gesticulation as a token of my friendship.
I’m not suggesting we try such tender methods on our enemies.
I’m still in the business of avant garde entertainment here.
One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.
People with dementia are frequently looking for something.
Baby, they sure had that right.
I apologize for any weirdness.
Sitting around, just waiting.
I guess "moody" wasn't an option.


Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.
You can kind of measure how a country is changing by the way the people who are sexual
               and gender minorities are treated.
But I still don't have a clear idea of what my voice is.
Behind everything said lurked the elephant in the room.
Respecting each other's sexuality is about the coolest thing I can think of, except for
               maybe legalizing hemp and not wearing fur.
That was so many years ago, and I don't think that there's a day that goes by that I don't think about her.


I've been having that dream again.
I want to rewind and erase.
Well, on and off I did.
It’s okay to be sex repulsed.
I am a born cheater for life.
The paradox goes further.
I never plan anything at all.
I do things that irritate people.

The truth is that the only time I'm happy is when I'm doing absolutely nothing.
There was even one outstanding chocolate dessert which always resonates well with me.
In spite of all the condemnation, the number of perverts seems to be on the increase.


I shall always be able to come up with new fantasies.
But you can perform your thinking instead of just thinking it.
We’ve never been very good at talking about the weather.

Screw you.
My way.

Discourse is not life; its time is not yours.
And we’ll be as fucked as we ever were.
I'm making this face until it happens.

You broke us.

I understand where that perception comes from.
Everything we call real is made of things which cannot be regarded as real.
Honour thy error as a hidden intention.


A note on the text from J.L.: "These 555 sonnets are made with found lines and precise measures, a database and text analytic software. I crunched Shakespeare’s sonnets for word, syllable and character averages — my new measures. The lines oddities are theirs, their arrangement is mine. After the text analytics and data entry is done, myriad ways of assembling are found. I hold to the turn (when I think of it) and that sonnets are poems of a certain size, but little more. Something in excess of the lines pass through, it’s this that I’m chasing."

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