Many congratulations to John Kenny for his sonnet, 'Peeking'.
You always used to cheat at hide and seek,
peek between your fingers, count in tens.
I'd scuttle up the stairs, avoid the creak
on the third step, under the bed and then
wait, not giggling, stifling a cough,
not breathing even, wait to see your feet.
You'd bounce upon the bed to squash me, laugh,
then drag me by the ankles from beneath.
We haven't played that game in many years.
You hid from me, I never thought to peek.
I'd peek now, but I can't see for the tears.
I'm counting now, in years, I'll find you soon.
This is our final game of hide and seek.
You have but slipped into another room.
The sonnet is an ideal form for containing ‘emotion’. The control of the metre and the rhyme scheme can act as a restraint and add a sense of dignity to what is being said. Having said that, the octave in John’s sonnet is quite a light-hearted account of a childhood game, the playfulness of which is communicated through the sounds of words like peek, and giggling and squash.
But at the sonnet’s turn, as it enters the sextet, the mood changes with a simple declarative sentence that brings us up to the present day. We pause there at the line’s end, and the sentence’s end, before reading the remainder of the poem, which uses the same language from the game, yet now we’re very aware of the adult resonances, what hiding and seeking and counting mean to us as the years pass and we lose people we love.
The final line draws on a sermon given by Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918) after the death of Edward VII, and this ‘intertextuality’ serves to remind us that the human emotional experience does not change.
Congratulations, John, on a superbly constructed sonnet that carries its powerful message simply and honestly.
Send me an email with your postal address and I’ll put your ‘prize’ in the post.