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Sestina I: Since the Womb

by Harriet Geller

My head impresses the down pillow in slow
Notion of a storm setting off car alarms, holding
on to wakefulness while I long
ago meant to seek the solace of arms
Control is the comfort I was raised
On and on as unread papers beckon from their shame-

face the facts, isn’t it a shame
she’s not yet free, even after the lurching slow
climb out of tombs within dungeons, razed
and rebuilt at the next plateau to hold
her again — somewhere to rest, even if not the downy arms
where she belonged?

Is living in one place for a long
time the same as being home? Shamefully,
I display the thousand objects with which I arm
myself, accumulated slowly
to fill the cracks in my argument, uphold
my constitution, provide warmth like the rays

of sunshine that fell short outside my window but raised
my hopes. “Erudition, interpretation, complication,” Wit’s long
detour to kindness, another way to be holed
up, released only when battering pain eclipses shame.
Shall I too wait for infirmity or senility to slowly
train me to disarm?

Get over here and take my arm!
Straighten up!  Do you want people to think you were raised
in a barn?  I don’t know why you’re so slow!
Get a move on!  Come along!
Don’t make me ashamed
of you!  What?  Again you want to be held!

On frenetic 14th Street at noon, while the traffic is held
at the light, a virgin butterfly zigzags between bus and taxi. I wave my arm
as if I could gather him back to safety, shamelessly
willing this icon of freedom to rise
above the steel cacophony and return to the nectar-fonts of his longing
in Union Square Park.
                                  It is a slow

process, frequently on hold, a shameful failing
I was told long ago. To raise myself up
from the bunting, in my own arms, is a slow process.

This poem appeared in the Fall 2000 IPA Newsletter.

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