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  • Sarah Margaret Henry

Panic! at the Disco & Marilyn Nelson: How My Icons Inspired One of My Most Ambitious Projects Yet

Updated: Jul 20, 2019


Ever since my roommate needed a plus one to go see Panic! at the Disco before her dad would agree to let her attend the Shippensburg U concert, I've been a huge fan of the rotating conglomeration of people who follow Brendon Urie around and make music. I love their sound, but I love their lyrics even more. As a band who seems to shift genre with every album they produce, the one mainstay is Urie's incredibly vocals and their intricate, clever way of speaking truth in to topics that range from the toxicity of partying to the disillusionment of life in L.A (see Dying in L.A. and L.A. Devotee).


As a writer, I like to draw inspiration from not only the Literary Greats who stock everyone's high school curriculum, but from pop culture and film. I don't believe the best is behind us in terms of great literature, and I love drawing from the electric current of now.


However, I am also a huge fan of people who are able to nod to the classics in their modern

poetry. Marilyn Nelson, a phenomenal poet I actually had the pleasure of meeting last year, is an incredible wordsmith and delightful individual. One of her most well known pieces is A Wreath for Emmett Till, a gut wrenching, gorgeous piece that commemorates the life of a young boy taken too soon during the Civil Rights Movement. His brave mother did not let him die in vain, but used his murder as a call to action to shine a light on the brutality that many wanted to ignore both during the 60s and still today.


Now all I need is a picture of me and Brendon Urie.

She is the first poet who taught me the beauty of formal poetry. If she was able to craft a piece like A Wreath for Emmett Till using form, than I'm sure as hell going to give it a try.


Most people who made their way through public school English could tell you what a sonnet is, or at least can say they've heard of it.

But what, pray tell, is a crown of sonnets?


This lesser known form is a set of 15 sonnets that borrows the last line of the poem preceding and uses it as the first line of the next poem, all while following all the rules of a traditional sonnet. The 15th sonnet is all of the first lines of all the poems that creates what my fiancé refers to as the "Table of Contents Poem." This poem must also follow all the traditional rules of a sonnet.


Confused yet?


I certainly was. But I decided that I needed to give it a try. But to add to the mess of this project, I decided that all of the lines in the final poem (and subsequently all the first and last lines of the first 14 poems) were going to be Panic! at the Disco lyrics.


So, before I bore you further with the mechanics and nuances, I'm just going to present to you A Panicked! Crown of Sonnets, an excerpt from my latest novel intricacies are just cracks in the wall.


A Panicked! Crown of Sonnets

an excerpt from intricacies are just cracks in the wall

I.

We move along with some new passion, know

That days by days go by and I pick up

Guitar and you stamp collect, I suppose –

Whatever you filled me with, try your luck

But I know you can’t drink nearly enough

To fill the void of what I meant to you.

No, not I, not my being, but a rough

Approximation for disposal, too

Easy to roll between your fingers, teeth,

Something that clinked against the chill, cool tile

When dropped, something that moaned on command, leave

That record player on repeat awhile,

Enough to give meaning to existence.

Oh, this is the beat of my heart, this is.

II.

Oh, this is the beat of my heart, this is

Breathing, this is touching carpet, my face,

This, reminding myself of existence

Beyond ravens that peck and then embrace,

Men that ransack with the excuse of love

And wonder if this, my apartment, is

A village, or is it just small enough

To be pillaged, but beyond all language,

Categorization only delays

The idea of you coming here, taking

Anything from a book to my body

Ripping pieces from the inside, breaking

Them against the weight of your manhood, now

But I regain repose and wonder how.

III.

But I regain repose and wonder how

Something simple as a broken tea cup

Could cut so deep and fully overcrowd

My mind, recalibrate the day, end up

Blinking, hear the chinking ceramic on

Tile, epithets, my goddamn body,

Limbs that never learned to move with honor

And grace my grandfather complained loudly

I lacked and instructed I pursue. In

The smashing, severing handle from cup

I see your knifelike eyes search, incessant,

Desperate to pull apart a vein to suck,

Pool blood thick enough to bathe in, red, dark

Cause these words are knives that often leave scars.

IV.

Cause these words are knives that often leave scars

And I can’t quite tear your “worthless,” “ugly,”

“Fat” verbiage from my “average” brain, with far

Too many rogue voices in my head, why

Not add one with a PhD? I do

What I swore I would never do and ask

For “Help, please.” She had quite a few things to

Say about you. But she chose to speak last,

Listen first. We’ve only had a session

Or two, but I’m sleeping okay with stored

Seroquel like a lazy river in

My brain. I don’t wake up scared anymore.

Sunsets pass, unpreoccupied with him,

And I would wait and watch the hours fall in.

V.

And I would wait and watch the hours fall in

Waiting for a sign to fall from the sky

Saying this isn’t one big joke, a sin

God elaborately planned, tell me why

These visions of haunted men and twisted

Trees and dying cats and rotting flesh vines

Are just a joke that only someone with

Grand omnipotence could find the punch line.

What’s the humor in watching me wake in

A cold sweat, sheets plastered to my chest, is

The light from the moon on my wall simply

Moonbeams or are they spiders lying in

Wait to crawl on my face? I shudder in

Dreams I inflate, painted skies in my brain.

VI.

Dreams I inflate, painted skies in my brain

I tell my psych, looking for answers and

She reveals that perhaps God had mainly

No part in the fatalistic nightmares.

It was merely a bad reaction to

A med not meant for me. A change of pace.

Wellbutrin SR. I’m calmer, feel new,

But it takes months to settle, find some space

And I realize that maybe this calm is

A lack of feeling anything at all.

We talk for a while, weigh the pros, cons, this

Feeling too little or too much: resolve?

We both agree, although it makes me sick,

Blue is better than being over it.

VII.

Blue is better than being over it.

I know now that feeling, touching this sense

Of existence, prodding at the rancid

Sore lets me know that not just emptiness

Is nestled deep within my core. While this

Pain does not make me Cassidy, I might

As well wring a silver lining from these

Litanies of rotting clouds, set my sight

On something beyond wallowing, drink of

Their emptiness and move along. They bleed,

Follow me, envelop me in rain, but

Sunshine generally finds its way in beams.

Clouds suffocate the night, fill my airway,

The clock just makes the colors turn to gray.

VIII.

The clock just makes the colors turn to gray

And I wonder if wandering outside

This apartment that seems to grow away

From the sun as the winter bleeds spring is

Worth a try. At least for a while. I take

A walk along Riverside Park, see dogs

Traipsing with their walkers who try to make

Them take steps akin to a steady jog

To no avail. Bridges stand, resolute,

Commemorating some politician

I don’t care to think about, waning truth.

And I sit on a bench meant for more than one

And I embrace the lonely and I see

Thoughts of past lovers. They’ll always haunt me.

IX.

Thoughts of past lovers, they’ll always haunt me,

Waiting in the shadows of untidy

Closets to wrap scarves, inadequacies,

Around my neck, pull me tight, I can’t breathe,

They whisper threats, lies, knives so frequently

I now have them memorized by rote and

You stare at me from the fridge I can’t clean

Of your condiments I can’t bear, can’t stand,

To touch, as though taking this ketchup from

Its shelf will unleash the memories of

Your wrath and disease, your false martyrdom

Haunting every room, closet, doorway, hall

This apartment, every piece of sweet, poor

Me. There is nothing else there at my door.

X.

Me. There is nothing else there at my door,

Just me, only Cas, nothing more, solely

A shadow slowly growing some color,

Metastasizing into a body,

More than a wakeless spirit, someone who

Takes up space, someone who dances between

Cluttered living room coffee tables, to

Move, simply because she can. Full, serene,

I revel in the emptiness of the

Apartment. There is so much more space for

Me to grow, live, breathe, realize myself. These

Loose pieces of me found stuck between floor

And couch for far too long. I live instead,

This symphony buzzing in my head.

XI.

This symphony buzzing in my head

When I walk to work, when I take the bus

To the grocery store and sure, I’ll admit

There are times when the music will grow rough,

Hit a snag on a minor key, but some

Coffee, me time, journaling, call to mom,

Text friends, perforated isolation

Helps to fix. We add Risperdal to the

Effexor mix and I sleep in vibrant

Color but I sleep through the night and I’ll

Take what I can get. I am vigilant,

I am less in tears and more I smile,

More writing letters to myself, of course.

Whether near or far, I am always yours.

XII.

Whether near or far, I am always yours,

And I wish to whatever God will hear

That I wasn’t. I feel this small piece pulse

In its absence, flesh pumping along its tear,

I run fingers along the grooves of its

Emptiness and know beyond doubt that you

Hold it far from me. I’m building up bits

Of a temple for me. I deserve to

Adorn my body with the finest jewels

Twenty dollars can buy and I will soak

Myself in lilac and Epsom salt pools

And won’t wrap myself in the sheets I woke

Up in when I was with you. Still I know

You’re behind my eyelids when I’m alone.

XIII.

You’re behind my eyelids when I’m alone

And I try to keep my eyes wide open

As though that is the one answer, as though

I don’t need sleep, as though I will and can

Avoid eye contact with the man who looks

Just like you in Broadstreet Market but I

Realize that I am strong enough, it took

Too long, to decide that I won’t waste time

Being afraid of you anymore. That

I fear not for me, but the next fearful

Girl who falls for you. I pray for her at

Night if I remember before I fall

Asleep. If she’s okay, I want to know.

I’m the light blinking: the end of the road.

IXV.

I’m the light blinking, the end of the road

And refuse to waste pages putting eyes

On you, because when I write, I unload

Monsters, immortalize, legitimize

Those who don’t have any more life than what

I speak into them, and I need to write

Them so I can pour the stagnant water

From my head before it breeds insects, light

The match to burn the bodies and I won’t

Owe them any more life than this. Without

Words, they suffocate. Now I really don’t

Care how you’re gasping for breath, mine a mouth

That will feed you no longer. Fuck, just go.

We move along with some new passion, no?

XV.

We move along with some new passion, know

Oh, this is the beat of my heart, this is—

But I regain repose and wonder how,

‘Cause these words are knives and often leave scars

And I would wait and watch the hours fall in

Dreams, I inflate, painted skies in my brain.

Blue is better than being over it;

The clock just makes the colors turn to grey.

Those thoughts of past lovers, they'll always haunt

Me. There is nothing else there at my door.

This symphony still buzzing in my head;

Whether near or far, I am always yours.

You're behind my eyelids when I'm alone.

I’m the light blinking; the end of the road.



So, what did you think? Was the form necessary for the poem to achieve what it was trying to accomplish? How many of the songs did you recognize? Which was your favorite poem of all 15? Comment below and don't forget to subscribe to see the latest blogs and stay up to date on the publication of intricacies are just cracks in the wall!


EDIT: Did you love the crown of sonnets as much as I do? Well you're in luck because intricacies are just cracks in the wall is now available here and here.

And yeah. We're pretty excited about it.

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