Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Happens When ~ A Sestina (Poem)

What Happens When ~ A Sestina

for Patrick

What happens when the coffin lid closes
becomes the act of praying
silence to its very end.
Your face fixed, I see no more
of you looking back. In my memory's hold,
yesterday's already begun to fade.

I press my heart in the light that fades
with curtain drawn, fear to hear how a door closes
to give me this one last time to hold
your face in my eyes loathe to track shadows preying
in too-tight corners. I want to ask what more
comes of fifty-nine years abruptly brought to end.

You received the blessing and, at the end,
the incense, sprinkled. The misted smell, it fails to fade,
as if to make this one mysterious moment more
yours than some other just before. That lid closes
and we are reduced, as we always are, to praying
for you whom we cannot hold.

We walk hand in hand to your grave that will hold
a single space above you free. We know how this end
of ritual plays out, and so we stand and we sit, praying
the words to break the silence that too soon will fade
when we walk away. We push back what closes
in: the earth, the sky, our feelings. What we need we need more

of but not the dusk's quiet settling, as on heathered moor,
not the open stretch of rough road beckoning. What we hold
out are our arms, empty. We thrust and parry, and still it closes
in, your death, bringing to inevitable end
the light we clutch and tug for. What we might wish would fade
your going makes bright this once, and leaves us praying.

So many days we have been praying,
the light broken by mourning into night, the night more
and less of everything, the known the unknown. Memory might fade,
or not. Memory might bid us hold
the firmness of last words, what cannot be spoken at the end,
what cleaves the heart when the door finally closes.

I want for more and nothing of the end
that breaks my hold on my image of you. Light does fade
when the door closes, and I, alone, am left praying.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

My audio recording of "What Happens When":

 Audio Recording of What Happens When ~ A Sestina by mdoallas

My other sestinas are:

Depths of Hungers 

Memory of Stones, Reminders to Forget

The Interview

After-Effects of Fire

20 comments:

Louise Gallagher said...

I want for more and nothing of the end /

I didn't want this sestina to end.

Beautiful and sad and mournful.

and my verification word today is 'prized' -- a fitting word for your poem.

Reflections said...

This was absolutely beautiful piece. I am just learning about the sestina, but you have shared a very inspirational piece.

I shall return to check out your others.

L.L. Barkat said...

Maureen, I can hardly breathe. This is... exquisite in its pain and beauty.

Megan Willome said...

Boy, do I know about that.

It's beautiful, Maureen.

S. Etole said...

sitting in silence with your words ...

magicinthebackyard said...

So many days we have been praying, the light broken by mourning into night, the night more and less of everything, the known the unknown. Memory might fade, or not. Memory might bid us hold the firmness of last words, what cannot be spoken at the end what cleaves the heart when the door finally closes...

Beautiful!

hedgewitch said...

Sonorous and bittersweet, a perfect sestina, a beautiful poem of faith, mourning and the human soul.

wolfsrosebud said...

Nice use of the sestina. Some very thought provoking lines you've presented to the read.

Pat Hatt said...

Wonderful write, such longing all the way through.

Brian Miller said...

what happens when a closing coffin lid becomes a prayer...whew what an opening thought...you work the form as well as you do the emotions...

nance marie said...

i am sitting silent with susan.

Jannie Funster said...

59 is very young.

And this meant a lot to me as my brother Patrick died in a car crash when we were both teens.

Beautifully written, Maureen.

Ann LeFlore said...

Very touching and sitting here in silence now thank you for sharing this

ayala said...

So sorry....sad and beautiful.

jen revved said...

An exquisitely wrought sestina, Maureen. The repetitions and word play become mnemonic, which serves to deeply etch a script of loss on a reader's heart-- I especially love:

What we hold
out are our arms, empty. We thrust and parry, and still it closes
in, your death, bringing to inevitable end
the light we clutch and tug for.


That is what it comes down to, isn't it-- being empty-armed and the rituals only for a time distracting, before they become comforting. xxxj

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Absolutely conveys the relentlessness of death, loss, grief.

Hannah Stephenson said...

A lot of times, when I get to the end of a sestina, I think, "Oh, the writer had it planned from the beginning so she could end up here." I realize that might not be true, but it seems that way in your poem here.

Joanne said...

I had not the courage to try this form, but you, Maureen, always have poetic courage. You kept the story moving, the theme flowing, inside this fascinating and difficult form. I will take praying (loved the preying variation!) and end with me.

signed...bkm said...

A stunning write Maureen on the rituals, the questions and those last feelings before no more...just a beautiful but mournful write...so well expressed..thank ou..bkm

Glynn said...

I think you've mastered this form. Wonderful poem, Maureen.