Six Honest Sonnets by Nicole Farmer

Honest Sonnets after Diane Suess
by Nicole Farmer


I was raised in a well. Scratchy wool. That smelly 
tub of a rectangle, butt end of the VW bug
where I got to stand and bounce in my sandy
feet jammies, no car seat, no belts, just free
bumping along from New York City to Vermont
over every pothole or icy lump, nausea overtaking
until I slumped into a feline coil, finger sucking
my way to slumber. World whizzing backwards,
mom smoking a joint, dad in a trench coat
sister biting and pinching me in secretive battle,
freezing blizzard leaving me dizzy and excited
for more. No wonder every unexpected joy 
has taken me longer to grasp, maturity late to appear.  
Backwards I arrive perfectly in the rear. 


I am a nine-year-old writing secret messages on my mouth
with my thumb nail. Staring straight ahead at my mom,
anger like steam blowing out my ears, as I bury her
with insults written in letters that tickle my lips
and calm my rage. Bowie the beagle sneaks 
out the back door to follow the scent of a bunny, 
the tracing of my finger now spelling out words
of love for my horse, my special tree, my anywhere
else but here, away from the yelling, the shit
eating grin from my goodie-two-shoes never get
caught sister. In trouble again. Caught. I can escape 
to my hidden dialogue, stories starring me, the galloping 
girl who flies high and never falls, no wings needed.
Invincible and innocent, really, yeah really. 


My teenage sister and I in the moonlight dancing
under the giant pecan tree in the back yard 
high on mushrooms for the first time, picked from 
cow dung in the fields outside Carencro, 
Louisiana, and dipped in honey - getting stoned 
with dad, celebrating the end of the marriage, we giggle
uncontrollably, free from the foursome, and happy
in the knowledge that they won’t unite again, 
ever, because six separations are enough, 
and it's Done!  and we're soaring, spiraling 
across the yard with giant bobble heads, spreading 
our seagull wings just like our free sailing mom. 
Sometimes the end of shared misery is celebration -
better than any birthday party with paper hats. 


Sweet sixteen under a giant moonlit crucifix
mounted in the crater of a dormant volcano filled 
with tin cans somewhere close to Antigua, 
Guatemala -no party dress, no dance, no teenage 
boys hugging the walls, cigarettes hanging from 
hungry mouths - I'm crawling on all fours
in the mud and rain, laughing with Lorenzo 
the Adventurer, my wheeler-dealer smuggler
dad, while elevated Jesus looks down on us with
golden tears, blood dripping from his thorny 
crown and open wounds, as we roll out our sleeping 
bags: Pop's puking his guts out all night in penance 
for eating fruit. Not just a father-daughter touristy trip
this was the research phase for the drug deal.


What constitutes a memory? Dad now gone
I simply remember what I remember
true or not there were only the two of us left
at home: seeing him emerge from the bedroom
in full priest habit as Padre Lorenzo, devout
traveler between Catholic Louisiana and Catholic
Columbia, doing God's work with a friendly smile -
flamboyant Spanish and a love of Central America,
its people, its culture. You would never guess
he had plastic bags of sugar duct taped under
his pants - practice run for the big smuggle day - 
me wondering if this was real or just another deal. 
Now I ponder his desperation and fear of failure -
invisibility was something he dreaded more than death. 


I was his eyes, his judge, his confidante:
Did his pants catch when he walked, did he look 
convincingly chubby? Was his belly believable? Did he 
waddle like a worshiper who loved to eat? - and all I
could think about was how his white plastic 
collar contrasted with the black linen shirt,
how shiny his black shoes shone, how much cocaine
would be duct taped to his body, and what
they would do to him if they caught him, would I
ever see him again, would I be allowed 
to visit him in the Pen? But this was 1979 
and he sailed through customs like a charm-
shaking hands, smiling, joking, playing the priest
was a role that far surpassed his Broadway debut.

Hear Nicole Farmer recite the poem on the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast:

Six Poets Recite (Durell Carter / Sarah Bitter / David Radavich / Mary Amato / Jai-Michelle Louissen / Nicole Farmer) Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast

Submit your polished poetry for the opportunity of being published on and being interviewed on The Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast.

Nicole Farmer

Nicole Farmer is a writer and reading tutor living in Asheville, NC. Her poems have been published in The Closed Eye Open, The Amistad, Quillkeepers Press, Capsule Stories, Haunted Waters Press, Sheepshead Review, Roadrunner Review, Wild Roof Journal, Bacopa Literary Review, Great Smokies Review, Kakalak Review, 86 Logic, Wingless Dreamer, Inlandia Review, In Parentheses, and others. Nicole was awarded the First Prize in Prose Poetry from the Bacopa Literary Review in 2020 and has just finished her first chapbook entitled ‘Wet Underbelly Wind’. Way back in the 90’s she graduated from The Juilliard School of Drama. You can find her dancing barefoot in her driveway on the full moon at midnight.


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