The Choice: A heroic crown of sonnets.

1. The course in life we take

It is a choice that proves or damns us all,
A crossroads from which none may be exempt.
There we must find the strength and wherewithal
To wisely act when circumstances tempt.
Our wants and obligations will conflict.
Decisions that we, in that instant, make
Whose consequence–too distant to predict–
Forever shape the course in life we take.
It’s well observed that human nature’s frail
And good intentions often go awry.
When even those of public prestige fail
To show integrity, what chance have I?
Despite the moral heights to which men climb,
It must confront us all in life sometime.

2. Lies great and small

It must confront us all in life sometime–
That sinking feeling when you’ve been deceived,
On realizing there’s no reason, rhyme
In articles of faith you once believed.
The so-called experts peddle shameless fraud
By posing as benevolent and learned
To infantile and docile masses awed
By pretense of authority unearned.
They claim to know how best we all should live;
That culture, context help t’ assay an act;
That truth, morality are relative;
While we absorb these fictions as though fact.
  How can one choose amid lies great and small
  To heed or to reject temptation’s call?

3. Temptation’s call

To heed or to reject temptation’s call?
To master self or be a slave to whim?
A man who stands for nothing’s sure to fall
With every pleasing breeze that touches him.
A man must understand what’s wrong and right.
His knowledge of them must be firm and sure.
Though he may profit saying black is white,
Strong principles will help resist the lure.
His purpose must be well thought-out and clear.
He must know what–and why–he can believe.
To get someplace, he must know where to steer.
There’s little that blind fumbling will achieve!
  Far greater men than I fall from their prime
  When depth of feeling can’t excuse the crime.

4. What you do

When depth of feeling can’t excuse the crime,
To choose aright, you first must know you should.
There’s more to this old right-wrong paradigm
Than what within the moment may feel good.
If you don’t get to know your inner voice
Before those times when you are wracked with doubt,
How can you make a clear-eyed, reasoned choice?
Don’t wait until you’re tested to find out.
For actions make the man in people’s eyes.
To others, who you are is what you do.
A man defines himself first if he’s wise
And acts his principles. So who are you?
  Some never find their footing, nor know how.
  No lasting gain does chance alone allow.

5. Instant satisfaction

No lasting gain does chance alone allow.
Prosperity won’t rain down from the sky.
A happy life is built on sweat of brow.
On our own efforts we must first rely.
Our culture does not teach us to direct
Attention to what really should come first.
Somehow, without exertion, we expect
An instant satisfaction to each thirst.
The media promote this sophistry
Though vapid, fatuous, because it sells.
We follow, courting ruin eagerly,
Enchanted as though by a witch’s spells.
  This Siren voice a sweet, seductive liar–
  She’ll tease and drive a man wild with desire!

6. Unattainable

She’ll tease and drive a man wild with desire.
She’ll flirt and let him think he has a chance
Then with a frigid turn, she’ll douse the fire.
To her this wretched tango’s called “romance”.
It’s not the prize she’s after; it’s the chase.
She wants to be pursued but not be won.
Since she’s the stronger runner in this race,
It’s she who holds the power; I have none.
Relentless heartache’s unsustainable.
Too long I’ve vainly loved her from afar.
To me she’s just as unattainable
As if she were a famous movie star.
    I never dreamed I’d feel so lovelorn now
    That blissful day I spoke our wedding vow.

7. Wedge

That blissful day I spoke our wedding vow,
I thought of joys the days ahead could bring
As if some magic power to endow
A carefree life resided in that ring.
Rejection can be toxic to love’s trust.
Too frequent, it can sicken, foul the heart.
Too harsh it spreads a doubt with time that must
Become a wedge that drives two halves apart.
While my own longtime wife, beloved and dear
Says “No” and brusquely pushes me away,
Another young and pretty face draws near
Whose smile, whose eyes, whose touch tempt me to stray.
  What cruel Fates are these who now conspire?!
  I knew not what resolve it would require!

8. Desired again

I knew not what resolve it would require
To keep my distance from your warmth, your charms,
To calm the fearsome longing you inspire,
To not fall eagerly into your arms.
You bring to life some part of me once dead.
As you approach, I feel my spirits rise.
All thoughts of caution vanish from my head
When I get lost deep in your sapphire eyes.
How wonderful to feel desired again
By one as sweet and beautiful as you!
Temptation finds us all sometime. What then?
What must a married man with children do?
  If whim and duty cannot coexist,
  So much of life could easily be missed!

9. Resigned

So much of life could easily be missed
While focused only on the negative.
And if we never gave in, never kissed,
Or took no risks, is that a way to live?
Why not throw caution to the wind? Submit
To what our hearts and bodies both demand?
You draw me in. Why am I fighting it?
Your pull is almost too great to withstand!
Don’t we deserve to find some happiness?
To do in heat of passion what feels right?
We owe it to ourselves to do no less–
Surrender to these fantasies tonight.
  To these brash, reckless mindsets we’re resigned
  Without a deeper purpose clear in mind.

10. Restraint

Without a deeper purpose clear in mind,
What reason would I have to show restraint?
I’m not much to impulsive vice inclined,
But neither can I claim to be a saint.
How could I tell my children what I’d done?
That I had hurt them to be with another?
That I, for shallow, momentary fun,
For my own selfish needs, betrayed their mother?
It may be what I feel for you is strong.
Your every molecule may be divine.
It doesn’t matter what I feel; it’s wrong.
We know I can’t be yours and nor you mine.
  And while you tempt me toward a desp’rate tryst,
  It will take strength undreamed of to resist.

11. Invitation

It will take strength undreamed of to resist
Your urgent whisp’rings, though I know I should.
Some part of me still wishes you’d insist
And take me knowing I’m not sure I could!
Oh, I could sink deep into your embrace.
Desire combats resolve; it’s poised to win.
My eyes find invitation in your face.
Engulf me in your presence! Pull me in!
Don’t storm away! Don’t let me just say no!
I plead with you, cry out in my own head.
The moment gone, I watch you turn to go.
My lips unmoving, guilty words unsaid.
  Now will I steel myself to leave behind
  Those fleeting empty thrills in life we find?

12. To know and do

Those fleeting empty thrills in life we find,
Those balms we use to salve wounds of the soul
Will over time become disease in kind
When sought too frequently to plug a hole.
A choice that’s painful may yet be correct.
Another may be simple and succinct
But difficult to make and to effect.
To know, to do, are matters quite distinct!
If we had met some other place and time,
Perhaps I’d be yours in another life.
I may some days feel much aggrieved, but I’m
Not ready yet to give up on my wife.
  And if as thinking beings we are meant,
  Our happiness is no mere accident.

13. Reasoned action

Our happiness is no mere accident
Nor luck, nor boon that someone else can give.
Our happiness depends to great extent
On how we view the world in which we live:
Does reasoned action by us serve a goal,
Or is our flourishing mere birth and chance?
We feel ourselves empowered, in control
Or victims of time, fate, and circumstance.
Perhaps our marriage won’t be constant bliss,
My all-too-human wife, no deity.
But I must share the blame in all of this.
To her, I’m not the man that I should be.
  I’ll put my family first and not relent.
  It is an act of will to be content.

14. Triumph

It is an act of will to be content–
Look back at life and say you’re satisfied
While wond’ring where your dreams and best years went,
Despite those times you failed or never tried.
Our wants exceed our means. That’s no surprise.
Our plans exceed the brief time that we get.
We find one day we must prioritize.
Our lives are short; some hopes must go unmet.
And yet this means no reason for despair!
There’s comfort in successes that we build.
We can’t be happy whining “Life’s not fair!”
We choose to feel forlorn or feel fulfilled.
By this we seal our triumph or our fall.
It is a choice that proves or damns us all.

15. No accident

It is a choice that proves or damns us all;
It must confront us all in life sometime:
To heed or to reject Temptation’s call
When depth of feeling can’t excuse the crime.
No lasting gain does Chance alone allow.
She’ll tease and drive a man wild with desire.
That blissful day I spoke our wedding vow,
I knew not what resolve it would require.
So much of life could easily be missed
Without a deeper purpose clear in mind.
It will take strength undreamed of to resist
Those fleeting empty thrills in life we find.
  Our happiness is no mere accident;
  t is an act of will to be content.

By Gavin M. Quinn