She asks her love to dance with her

This poem is for the dverse prompt and is inspired by Jilly’s quote from Jim Harrison

“As with dancing you have to learn the steps”

The challenge is to write a sonnet in free verse. With no rhyme or rhythm, the lines don’t fall into strict units of quatrains and tercets, for me at least, so I’ve stuck to classic Shakespearean sonnet form. A cop out, I know, but I find a sonnet quite hard enough to write without adding an extra twist to the thumbscrews.

Photo ©Tobiasvde


There is never a teacher for this dance,

No more than to guide the fledgling’s first flight,

To fly or to fall, in the hands of chance,

Sleep or the wolf may come with the night.

Will we untangle the mess that we made?

Our steps tripped and faltered, we parted ways,

Like sand castles crumbled, the plans we laid,

The dream of the future obscured in haze.

There must have been love to have left such pain,

As there must have been music to draw us on,

There must have been sun once though now there’s rain,

The piper once played sweet who now is gone.

Watch my eyes at sunset, moonrise to see,

The star-stepped path that brings you back to me.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

69 thoughts on “She asks her love to dance with her”

  1. *there must have been love to have left such pain* … so true and something I think people resist in the fallout of relationships – they suddenly deny there was love. I always find that denial tragic. Indeed it is better to have loved and lost …. love being the greatest gift we have in our human state, I believe.

    1. That’s how I feel too. In fact, I’m certain there was love, however much hatred and anger follow a break up. It’s why I’m so thrown by the family dramas, when fathers murder daughters (with the complicity of the mother) for supposed crimes against convention. How? Was there really nothing there to begin with, not even when the child was a toddler?

      1. Those cases leave me absolutely helpless to explain. Tragic doesn’t cover it. I don’t understand how love can die … it is like an irrational blanket of bile smothers it.

      2. I wonder if the weight of tradition and the imposition of convention can be stronger than an instinctive love response. How else can you explain how a mother can let her child be abused, married, raped, murdered or whatever, and even to be complicit in it? Or a father who cradled his daughter when she was a baby hand her over to an old man when she’s barely pubescent? It’s something I tried to write about in The Green Woman. I’m glad to be going back to that story. It’s one close to my heart.

  2. A terrific sonnet, but perhaps closer to classical than free verse, sans rhyme, sans meter–still tis lovely & fun to read. I’m sad to be the first to sully your effort–but hey–we are family.

    1. ‘Sully’ seems a bit strong to describe your comment, Glenn. I do say in the intro that I couldn’t write a completely free verse sonnet, and that this one is an attempt at a classic Shakespearean sonnet. So I take your comment as a pure, unsullied compliment 🙂

    1. A sonnet, to my way of thinking, has a very definite structure and the beauty of it comes from making the structure add to the impact of the words. I don’t see how you achieve the same effect in free verse. Free verse sonnet seems like an oxymoron to me, but I could be missing the point. I spent some time getting this one to work (to my satisfaction) and had to sleep on the last two lines. The second one, written with no rhyme pattern, took less than ten minutes to write. Call me old-fashioned, but…

  3. I do love the hope in the end, but still the bittersweet parting is the sense that I feel the strongest… I do not think that the division into quatrains was important, but more in the sense where the volta is, which is more like the Shakespearean one (in the last couplet)

  4. Hooray! Hooray! Sleep or wolf – Excellent! Really enjoying seeing you go back through the quotes; you do such wonderful things with the words. I’m sorry I missed doing this prompt.

    1. I’m glad you like it 🙂 You can still write one. I read some of the free verse sonnets and didn’t get exactly what made them work. Maybe I was tired, but the classic form was difficult enough for me.

      1. It’s a mood thing, for me. About half of my students speak Spanish, so I pull out Neruda occasionally to make comparisons across the languages.

  5. There must have been sun once though now there’s rain,
    The piper once played sweet who now is gone…so bittersweet and full of longing are these lines. A beautiful sonnet.

      1. That’s okay. You wrote a classical sonnet the way I write classical Japanese forms. Writing something with rhyme and meter would throw me into a tizzy but you ripped it out amazingly well. We do the forms we like best.

      2. Well. I just like to read them. sometimes I’ll sing a poem if it moves. I am a free verse person due to my years of Japanese poetic forms. Having to write a poem in terms of rhyme and meter throws me into a tizzy and I don’t write to those prompts. Life is too short to be tizzified. And as my mama used to say – this is why there is a choice of sugar or honey to sweeten your tea….I like your forms you use – lovely things they are.

      3. Thank you 🙂 We write in the shadow of the poets we admire, I suppose. My idol is Yeats, but I have a great liking for de la Mare and Masefield, and Christina Rossetti wrote some lovely verse.

      4. I actually enjoy reading all yhe poets you mentioned including American poets from the same time period. I love the rythm and rhyme. I just can’t write it and admire those who can. Willie Yates was a fine poet indeed.

      5. I’d love to be able to write like any of them. Poetry seems to me shows up the huge difference there is between ‘competent’ and ‘gifted’. 🙂

      6. I’ve been writing poetry since I was 12. I don’t think I have a career…all I have is lots of ink and paper. thank you for thinking I may have a flash of brilliance. I keep striving.

  6. You have certainly made a beautiful sonnet! I would find the classic form harder, so I admire this even more.

    1. It’s the other way round for me. It takes work to find the words and the metre, but without the guidelines, my ‘sonnet’ would come out like any fourteen line free verse poem.

    1. Thank you! There is more freedom without rhyme or rhythm, in theory. But try ending a poem two ways; one version in free verse, the other with a rhythm and a rhyme. Often, it seems to me, the rhyme makes it more memorable and gives it more force. Depends what you’re aiming for, I suppose.

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