Sestina for Seventy – a poem by Beth Kanell

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


  1. Siham Karami says:

    What a splendid and brilliant sestina. I absolutely love it! One of the best I’ve ever read. Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know how difficult they are to write having attempted a couple. AND to make it rhyme: astonishing!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s