Sonnets About Serial Killers

by S.P. Somtow

You are about to read a work in progress, a sequence of sonnets about some of the most squalid and uninviting characters out of today's tabloids. I began writing these sonnets one day when one evening, having coffee with a few friends, I heard someone opine that there were no more changes to be wrung out of this venerable, classical form. The sonnet, my friend said, died a century or two ago, and deserves a decent burial.

I got to thinking about this. I wondered whether the rhythms of contemporary speech could be warped into the iambic patterns of sixteenth-century English, and what subject matter would be as familiar to a contemporary audience as the amours of Jupiter or Chapman's Homer might be to the cultured audience of a few hundred years ago.

I decided that there would be no cheating -- absolutely no concessions to the blandishments of modern poetry -- completely rigid adherence to the form as it was practiced by Shakespeare and Petrarch. As long as I didn't cheat, though, anything was possible.

Here are the first few effors. The first, Jeffrey Dahmer, first appeared in Once Upon a Midnight, an anthology of dark verse published by Unnameable Press. I strongly recommend the book.

The poems herein are all 1995 by Somtow Sucharitkul. By all means, enjoy. But do NOT reproduce, sell, or do anything else that might violate the copyright laws of any country, please.


Jeffrey Dahmer

Death is a little pinprick.  Just a jab.
Nothing to fear.  No suffering.  No pain
Compared to the stern, stupefying stab
Of loneliness.  Some acid to the brain
Will melt away that lingering abhorrence;
Then, all at once, by fiat from above,
Transcendence; for we'll taste tempestuous torrents
Of desire.  For you, eternal love;
For me, mere transience; for I consume
And what was beautiful becomes old bones
And flesh, and rots in a suburban room,
While your response to my perfervid moans
Is not to speak at all.  Oh stay, oh stay --
Not like the rest -- True love does not decay!

Ed Gein

A woman's privates stretched over his own,
Her flayed paps strapped onto his manly chest,
He danced.  With ornaments of womanbone
Clattering, tinkling; and with robes of dressed
And burnished womanskin, he danced.  Alone
Under a dead Wisconsin moon, he danced,
Morphing himself through maiden, mother, crone,
His drab droll being lightning-like enhanced
With a profound old magic, that outshone
Logic.  But in this dancing, what can we perceive?
Could we too dance, though we be turned to stone
By all that forces us to love, laugh, grieve,
Weep, flee the dark-limbed carcass's cold glance?
Only the mad, we think, may truly dance.

John Wayne Gacy

Sure, fuck me.  I'm fifteen.  I know the score,
Knew from the moment I stepped off that bus
From Cleveland.  Bruise me?  I'm already sore;
I've been a hustler since I learned to cuss
In seventh grade.  It takes much more to scare
A dude like me than some scratched-up old knife,
A fat man in a clown suit, with a pair
Of handcuffs and no key -- shit, that's my life.
No, sonny, that's your death.  You know so much,
You ought to recognize what's in my eyes;
Should have foreseen the meaning in my touch
And sensed somehow these weren't the same old lies.
Before your screaming is forever stilled,
I want to hear you beg me to be killed.

While not actually a serial killer, Susan Smith is another very interesting recent figure of tabloid folklore. The following sonnet, therefore, perhaps belongs somewhere in this ongoing sequence...

Susan Smith

Her memory mothers her, a monstrous lake
That swallows up youth, truth, future and past
In its lactating presence.  Every ache
It washes, soothes, locks out, rolls up, seals fast
Except the one ache which, like a black hole
Sucks at the soul itself.  Her memory smothers,
Siphons away the air, lets the past roll
Till it submerges with a thousand others.
O children of the cold, cold womb, entombed
In greatest, gravest darkness, do not weep;
For your frail tears can only be subsumed;
Nothing is more eternal than the deep --
"I pray the Lord," she cries, "their souls to take;
I pray the Lord they die before they wake."

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