Apr 3 2011 2:30pm

Sonnet: Against Entropy

John M. Ford

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That's the joke.
The universe winds down. That's how it's made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you'll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

This article is part of Poetry Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Earl Cooley
2. shiva7663
This was one of the poems that got me interested in poetry in recent years.
David Goldfarb
3. David_Goldfarb
A marvelous sonnet, made even better by knowing the context: it was a comment on an entry on Patrick Nielsen Hayden's blog, about an amusing error in's database, which concluded:

if I were a better writer I’d conclude by yoking the trivial to the tragic, relating the twin inevitabilities of death and database error by means of a rhetorical figure involving worms.

...and John M. Ford (who I'm sure Patrick would be the first to admit was indeed the better writer) responded by doing exactly that -- in sonnet form!

(Not that I think Patrick is any slouch at writing. Quite the contrary.)
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
An excellent poem to start. Just ask Dr. Mike.
5. Jaquandor
Wow, he was good.
B. Loppe
6. Myriads
Having written this down in my carry-around-with-me notebook, I once enlivened a 45-minute queue by memorizing it, and in the end, did not regret having forgotten a book that day because now I carry it around with me everywhere.
Joshua Starr
7. JStarr
Love this. Thanks for reminding me of it.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
8. tnh
To add one detail to David Goldfarb's story: Mike posted that sonnet as the first comment in the thread.
Jo Walton
9. bluejo
John M. Ford was a wonderful writer, and an astonishing poet. He has written poems even better than this one. But I will never forget seeing this one for the first time completely unexpectedly on the Making Light thread, doing that thing, and bringing tears sharply to my eyes as I was going through my morning online putter.

I miss him. It still hurts to write about him in the past tense.
10. Zeynep
This is one of my favorite poems; thanks for the, word choice entirely intentional, reiteration.
11. slanagat
We miss you, Mike.
12. aleistra
Thank you for posting this. As with many others, it's one of my favorite poems, and it deserves to be better known. (And it's a very good candidate for the single best comment ever left on a blog.)
13. Luna_the_cat
@David_Goldfarb -- actually, it isn't at all about "an amusing error in Amazon's database", really. It's about one of the ugliest deaths that a person and the person's family can suffer. Read the context you link to more carefully.
Elise Matthesen
14. LionessElise
Luna_the_cat, it was about a death *and* a database error. The latter was amusing from certain viewpoints; the former was clearly not. Since it was the database error (a confusion of authorship which conflated someone who had written a book on worms and someone else who had co-authored a very different book) which gave the initial post its title and the poem its central metaphor, I think David can remain unscolded.
15. Laurence Brothers
That final line is exquisite.

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