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Sestina - Miriam Sagan (U.S.A)

 


SESTINA

For the painter Alexandra Eldridge

 

-         Miriam Sagan (U.S.A)

Every day you pull a card, find contradiction.
A forest sprouts from the back of a stag,
a bird in the hand is most certainly a black crow,
a Victorian child is crowned
with flowers, like a valentine, her own
face is masked as a rabbit or invisible in radiance.

Where am I? The past seems irradiated,
those fairytales of contradiction
witch or princess, which am I, which is my own?
Am I the hunter or stag
the girl with the crown
or the brother with one feathered arm, turned to a crow?

Then back to human shape again, crowing
at the success of transformation. Don’t get stuck in radiance,
even beauty is a trap, any crowning
glory a kind of prison, only contradiction
can bend the bars, release me like a stag
to the wind, freedom I can own.

When I was young, all I owned
was a beat-up suitcase full of leaves, black as a crow.
Standing at the bar, stag,
scanning the crowd for radiance,
wanting to kiss the contradiction
from the soles of the feet to the crown.

Singing along to “you are the crown
of creation,” I lost what I’d owned.
Love and hate were not just a contradiction.
In autumn, not just leaves fell, but feathers of a crow
who blotted the moon, stole the sun’s radiance
as across the sky arc it staggered.

I’m staggered
by the palimpsest—words, flowers, charms, crowns,
candles, hand prints, radioactive—
unscrolling layers of contraction,
a pebble or gem in the beak of a crow
all my own.

Contradiction, you are my name, like the antler stag
or the doe, like fledgling or crow, crowning
my own thoughts—sleeping, waking—in radiance.

****