Posts Tagged ‘sestina’

These are the days we tell ourselves to stay in the house.

We wish for brighter days, sunlit days, days our grandmothers

would recognize. When I was a child, I spoke as a child,

but now….we long for childhood, hours spent beside the warm stove

that always produced sweetness. Should we consult the oracle or almanac,

find out the science behind these dark days? Everything ends in tears.


We do not watch the news for fear we will break down, tears

streaming down our faces, not fit to write or cook or leave the house.

Instead we consult poems as if they were oracles, we read the almanac

the way we used to read the internet. We find ourselves deciphering grandmother’s

recipes as if they are cryptograms with news on how to use the stove

to create happiness. If only it were so. We long for our time as a child,


running, running, with grass-stained knees and a red, red mouth. No child

should have to know what we know now. No, children’s tears

might result from accidents with the swing, a bee sting, a hot stove,

not an encounter with a monster who is all too real, or photos of the White House

and the horror therein. We long for another time, for the President of grandmother,

an old man with white hair, too senile to be dangerous. According to the almanac,


the End Times are not yet upon us. Let us give thanks. But no almanac

contains prophecies of the future. For that, we must consult a child,

the Dalai Lama, or an ancient rune. Remember what your grandmother

told you: If you can’t say something nice…shh! The salt in your tears

might foretell dementia or the coming of a great vision. In your house,

you have the ingredients for a chocolate cake. Look at your stove,


it could be a portal to another universe, a method of time travel, the stove

can move you through the miracle of fire. This information is in no almanac,

nor any Holy Book nor is it found in your mind. In order to live, leave the house,

find the way laid out in the sidewalk, in hopscotch trails drawn with chalk by a child.

There is no other way. As you travel, you will encounter memories, your first tears

shed into the blonde hair of a doll, or left on your mother’s shoulder. Your grandmother


is no longer of this world. You must accept that. Now you become the grandmother,

the mother, the sorcerer, teller of tales, the witch. Stir your caldron at the stove,

mix wine, the juice of lemon and orange, the blood of strawberries, your own tears,

with the strains of some old Psalm. You must survive. Consult the almanac,

plant daisies and kale and thyme. View the garden of the world as if you were a child,

craft a bed with your own hands, sew your own linens. Your body is a house.


Stitch together your tears to make an emotional almanac.

Be a grandmother, ruminating before the cold stove.

We each become a child again inside this dying house.

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Sestina in the voice of Jim Jarmusch

I have a lot of weird experiences by not having a plan.
To forfeit that for order? Wouldn’t that be, like, a con?
I think about it, getting e-mail, say, on one hand—
but wouldn’t that just be another way of getting lost?
I’m not nostalgic—my life is only about change.
But I want my voice to echo back, not a smart thing

to do if you’re trying to live undercover. Smart things
are so alluring, night to a vampire, but big plans
overstate their virtuosity. What I like better is change.
Change never lets you down. Big plans are a big con.
I walked the East Village with a samurai sword, got lost:
I didn’t know where I was going, but I used both hands 

picked up the guitar like a sword, with both hands—
so much is similar between music and film, things
like rhythm and improvisation. That gets lost
really fast if you’ve got a yearning for a plan.
Too much order can be a weakness—you con
yourself into the agenda, then smack you want change,

change has gone undercover, you can’t buy a change
of underwear. It’s better to have what you need on hand:
your samurai sword, guitar, your pocket art. Con-
sider the alternative: calendar, to dos, things
to keep track of, like pocket lint or house plans
or certificates or credentials—all things I’ve lost

a thousand times, because I only want what I can lose.
It’s a weakness to want only what won’t change.
That’s just what New York is—a plan
to abolish order, repeal nostalgia. Open your hand.
If you’ll just relax your fingers, you’ll see: things
end, begin, loosen up. Anything else, you’re conning

yourself or someone else. Improvise or die—a con-
tradiction worth a song. I like that there’s loss.
I like that there’s an end. You’ll see weird things
if you just walk three blocks. New York never changes.
It’s weirder than you could ever be. I hand
it to you: we’ve had this talk according to plan: 

I confess everything, my love of change, the plan
I refused or never made. On the other hand, the truth?
Without knowing where I was going, I never minded getting lost.


(I took lines and words and concepts from this New York Times article about Jim Jarmusch’s new film.)

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