Five Sonnets After Catullus

By Anna Jackson

I love and I hate (equation sonnet)  


            after Catullus 85 




if I am north to your south I am south to your south too 


if permeability measures the ability  


to support a magnetic field  


within the self  


I am permeable to the inverse ratio 


of your perfection  


attracted and repelled till my teeth  


are audible across the room, beyond the skies  


racing the Beatles song “Across the Universe”  


to reach some distant form of life 


which will be wondering, why would I compose  


such a complicated feeling-equation?  


I don’t know  


I just feel crucified  


being a poet (waitress sonnet) 

        after Catullus 51


tips too much, that god sitting across from you, again 

and again, these extravagant gestures, it brings 

me down, brings down

sense and tongue, he, resounding 

with my longing, seems to me like a mirror, eyeing 

my fleeting glances, my feet tripping 

over chairs, idle laughter

or was it coins resounding, seizing the time 

yet revelry runs fiercely 

through my senses 

as if through the burning house of poetry 

my mouth lit up 

with dazzling fire, one day 

I’ll say something 


trippy (bedroom sonnet) 

        after Catullus 2


trippy, this bird

you let under the sheet

of your shirt, eyes 

on me, making light

of the weight 

of your feelings, a skittering 

on your skin, if it hurts

you’re asking for it

should be soaring like a god 

into the sky, should be 

pouring out an ecstasy of song, should

should should should should should should 

should should should 

should should should 


through and through (party sonnet)

                        after Catullus 27


tip this out, I won’t be served with

watered down wine, this is

wine procured by

a prefect, drunker than

a drunk grape,

setting an example

I feel 

I should follow...

off with you, water, you toxic

substance, too late

to effect a cure on me, I’m drunk

through and through,

it has spread to my nymph-nodes – 

I’m [hic] all wine’s

tastes like wine (dawn sonnet) 

        after Catullus 48

tastes like wine, this boy sitting across from me, his 

honey eyes looking like yours as he implores  

me to join him on the floor

the table a low ceiling swirling 

like a chandelier 

in the earthquake of these kisses

table legs circling 

like the blades of a combine harvester

every kiss is a near miss

my heart escaping like a mouse

into the corn 

the summer’s sun all rolled into one

ripeness I can 

never get enough of

Anna Jackson is a New Zealand poet.  For more on her work, go to


Photograph by  Simon Edmonds, supplied by author