An Elegy for the Sonnet as Instrument of Torture

by Sophie Mayer

So, Wyatt, you felt guilty, did you? Guilt dribbling
down the line of your body like
come leaking from your courtier mouth. You
didn’t swallow. Couldn’t. What was the etiquette,
then, anyway, amidst the farthingales and codpieces?
Did your tongue dance a volta
with the clitoris of the king’s mistress?
HBO says so, but TV’s a reliable guide to fuck-all,
and certainly not to fucking. But there’s a Tudor
Kama Sutra
not quite encoded – I’m certain, and who’s
to contradict me – in Shakespeare’s sonnets
and in yours: a diagrammed manual
of swan’s-wing hair torture, needle-pricked
play piercing, studded collars, whip-smart naked hunts,
cockringing, double blindfolds,
precise stiletto stabs to the breast and groin. Oh, how
you all loved torture, falling under it, tumbling
to the enseamèd bed for a thumbscrew. Our inheritance
from you: a mouthful of crown jewels,
a snail trail of slipped identities and dirty linen,
all buckled to a verse form that plays
daisy chains with rhymed pairs (legs
entwined in exquisite crucifixions),
whose ecstatic utter shudder is its
quietus: auto-poetic asphyxiation.