May Poem (for realsies this time)

Big thanks to Mel for this assignment.  I can’t believe I’ve got a (roughly) finished product in a week.  If you haven’t checked out the MFA Sunday School, I highly recommend it!  And go to the comments section of this week’s assignment to see the other great sestinas people have written.

§        §        §

State Fair

The year Mom died, Dad took us to the fair.
It was August, and the late summer sun
scorched my neck and shoulders, too
exposed in a strappy tank.  I spent the rest
of our trip aware of the radiating heat, hoping
pink would soon fade to a golden tan, a song

for Midwestern summers I could sing
when I returned west, a sign of how I’d fared
during my weeks at home.  My hope
had been to get my dad out in the sun.
After a good house-scrubbing, he deserved a rest,
though we’d cleaned less than I wanted to.

He made it hard, every dusty trinket too
meaningful to throw away. The mopping, rinsing
dishes, vacuuming, all the things my mom had done, now rested
with him.  Added to his 60-hour week, it seemed unfair,
but he didn’t have a choice, and any reason
my sister or I could give, in the hope

he would accept some help, well, that hope
was punctured with excuses: working nights, sleeping until two
or three in the afternoon.  He rarely saw the sun;
when would someone come who wouldn’t wake him, sing
while cleaning, or move the furniture?  The whole affair
would bring him too much grief.  He needed rest.

We couldn’t have his heart arrest
like Mom’s did.  My sister and I were left to hope
he’d find a way to take care of himself and fare
better than we expected him to
without her.  We’d lived out of earshot of her song
for years, the closest of her sons

and daughters an hour’s drive away.  But the sun
of her life had set, and she could rest
in the heaven of her choosing.  We wouldn’t hear her sing
in church, the vibrato of her high notes lending hope
to those who knew pain and sickness, too.
Dad took us to the fair,

maybe to forget his solitude, or in hope
of remembering sunnier days, releasing
prayers, unsung, like all the rest.

§        §        §

P.S.  I know I promised an engagement story.  This is clearly not it.  It’s coming.

Updated 5-20-12
You guys were sweet not to notice, or at least not to comment on it, but I totally messed up the end of my sestina.  Somehow, I forgot about “fair” and had some version of “sing” twice.  I fixed it, but I’m not sure I like it as much as the original.  Let me know what you think.

State Fair

The year Mom died, Dad took us to the fair.
It was August, and the late summer sun
scorched my neck and shoulders, too
exposed in a strappy tank.  I spent the rest
of our trip aware of the radiating heat, hoping
pink would soon fade to a golden tan, a song

for Midwestern summers I could sing
when I returned west, a sign of how I’d fared
during my weeks at home.  My hope
had been to get my dad out in the sun.
After a good house-scrubbing, he deserved a rest,
though we’d cleaned less than I wanted to.

He made it hard, every dusty trinket too
meaningful to throw away. The mopping, rinsing
dishes, vacuuming, all the things my mom had done, now rested
with him.  Added to his 60-hour week, it seemed unfair,
but he didn’t have a choice, and any reason
my sister or I could give, in the hope

he would accept some help, well, that hope
was punctured with excuses: working nights, sleeping until two
or three in the afternoon.  He rarely saw the sun;
when would someone come who wouldn’t wake him, sing
while cleaning, or move the furniture?  The whole affair
would bring him too much grief.  He needed rest.

We couldn’t have his heart arrest
like Mom’s did.  My sister and I were left to hope
he’d find a way to take care of himself and fare
better than we expected him to
without her.  We’d lived out of earshot of her song
for years, the closest of her sons

and daughters an hour’s drive away.  But the sun
of her life had set, and she could rest
in the heaven of her choosing.  We wouldn’t hear her sing
in church, the vibrato of her high notes lending hope
to those who knew pain and sickness, too.
Dad took us to the fair,

maybe to forget his solitude, or in hope
of remembering sunnier days, whispering fare-
wells and prayers, unsung, like all the rest.

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18 thoughts on “May Poem (for realsies this time)

  1. What a beautiful sestina Daryl! Very moving. I continue to be fascinated by how each of us used the end words Mel gave us. Is your poem a true story? If so, I am sorry for the loss of your mother. Thank you for sharing this and the other one you wrote before, as it really helped me to understand the form and what you can do with it and the end words.

  2. You have such a lovely way with words. You keep leaving me wanting to read more. I’m very sorry for your loss. The emotion comes through so clearly in this poem. I agree with Kathy that it is amazing how many different stories can be told with the same words. I love how you’ve used these end words and I’ve learned something new about sestinas. I didn’t realize that you could use both sing and song – now I know!

    • Thank you. I was actually surprised with where this poem ended up. It seemed to have a mind of its own! But when I saw that “fair” was one of the words, I immediately thought of going to the state fair with my dad, sister, and niece a few months after my mom had died. The rest was the result of twisting and maneuvering to fit the form. I also think it’s so interesting to see how we each interpreted this set of six words.

    • Thank you. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m glad that, as someone who’s experienced that particular loss, this poem rings true. It’s that voice saying “me, too” that we all long to hear. That’s just about the best compliment I could hope to get.

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