Sestina for Seventy Summoning grit to face this winter chore: though I would rather sip hot tea, I’ll choose the January wind and snow, divide my comforts from a rougher, fiercer side— so while the northwest wind hurls cold abuse, determination thrusts me out the door. Mom’s Puritan equation mandates use of anything I scrape from plates. Her chore carves virtue out of waste. And Dad’s divide thrusts all forgiveness out the battered door, responsibility the only grace he’d choose. “Work more,” he’d growl, affection swept aside. Bones from the night before are what I choose as feast to carry past the wind-slammed door and half across the icy field. My chore will feed the tree-perched crows with scraps outside where they delight in what I didn’t use gorging on skin and fat. I will divide my soul from past instructions, turn aside the bitterness of past defeat. I’ll use the sharp air of the storm as if the door enabled me to frame my own divide, hurling away what’s bitter—I can choose to bear my blue amazement as no chore. Be good, behave, be what my parents choose: This route’s become a foolish, useless chore, something that threatens to again divide the joys I treasure, setting love aside as if enjoyment had no higher use. As if the rhyme were rope instead of door! Then I declare, through wide-swung wind-blessed door, let virtue topple loose. Why chafe with chore when joy can be the wild storm that I choose, its white amazement feathered for my use. When every feather’s settled at my side the warmth of new forgiveness will divide the world that once my parents tried to choose from one I’m building, word by word, outside: oh grace of storm, inhaled; oh, open door.
Beth Kanell lives in northeastern Vermont, with a mountain at her back and a river at her feet. She’s a published poet, novelist, historian, and memoirist, and shares her research and writing process at BethKanell.blogspot.com.