Spring 2011

Volume 6, Issue 1



The Woodgrain Sestina



You were across town, your curves, opaque, the brownglass of you,
There was terrycloth on the banister, filtered on steel pins and columbines,
Shrouding the woodbrown and varnished grain that held us when we walked,
Ate us up through its expense, taxing us for our trips up and down the stairs,
Telling us in its creak and stutter that we still had fallibility in common,
That we all could be reduced to matchsticks, opaque, you were across town.


“But this,” you argued, stuck in staccato, “is bigger than the town,”
I was fallen, terrycloth, weeping into the moment, the embargo of you,
We are much like this banister, you and I, in that (if nothing else) we are common,
We have been planted here, with questions, the scent and normalcy of columbines,
There was in our conversation the specter of your continued absence, the stairs
Were weighted with the fright of my fingers, waiting to be walked.


I am reduced to trolley steps and vitamins, stuttering since you walked
In the room, my trembling fingers. “I’d have been better off across town,”
You told me, woodbrown in the gutter of its shroud as you walked up the stairs,
We are marked by this creak and stutter, the ash and expense of you,
The soil and terrycloth, spreading themselves through the varnish and columbines,
Spreading themselves in proselytization, proof statement to common.


But your curves, this stutter, our absence and normalcy is common,
The marginal fallibility stops, the specter of ghosts formally walked,
Filtered on steel pins, we are planted in this place, in this dirt like columbines,
The argumentative scope of our fever will radiate through the windows, the town,
Will circumnavigate the globe before turning back through to the places we walked,
Pour back into us, matchsticks in terrycloth, and force us up the stairs.


We bend on the crutch of our need, “But we separate banister and stairs,”
You explain. “This isn’t advanced theoretical carpentry. It is (if nothing else) common.”
I am opaque, filtered and varnished in the dark woodbrown presence of you,
My movement was a surrogate for absence, walking in the places that we walked,
Before the stutter and staircase, before the brownglass of the falling and fallen town,
Came and killed that version of you. “I am not Ophelia,” you said. “I have no columbines.”


There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, and fennel for you, and columbines,
You threw us into the staccato woodgrain and drowned us in the water of the stairs,
The matchsticks of our legs, the trolley steps and vitamins, the Elsinore of this town,
We have been reduced to the peal of your curves, the shadows and the common,
My memory and self-conception are built on the quiet, proselytized measures we walked,
And I am left without proof statement, the specter of ghosts, without you.


The brownglass and expense, “We are nothing if not common,”
You uttered opaque and varnished; but this is the town where we walked,
And these stairs and these columbines are part of me. And they are part of you.


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© 2011 Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture