C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Friday, October 7, 2011

An October Sestina: Garden

A sestina I wrote when our youngest was five months old...


An October blue-sky golden walk in my garden
Bare feet, cooling ground, warm sun on my skin,
Snapping basil stems, overflowing armloads crush up into my face.
The scent overwhelms.  Perfect tomatoes fill my hands
With sun soaked heat.  I rub off the crust
Of honest dirt and carry all inside dreaming of olive oil

The jar is empty.  I pad down cool stairs for more oil.
The kitchen table overflows with garden
Treasure.  Visions dance – something with a golden crust
Of cheese.  On the counter dough rises in a mound smooth as baby skin.
Curving it out of the bowl, I pull and stretch.  Husband puts his hands
On my shoulders.  I brush my eye and trace my face

With flour.  I wipe my hands and turn to face
Him with a kiss.  “If you want to help sit and oil
The pans.”  So he sits and works.  I shape and stretch.  He hands
Me oiled pans.  I slip in the loaves and go back out to the garden
for the eggplant I just saw from the window, purple skin
Gleaming.  Grilled, I think, with a little parmesan, to give it a nice crust.

The kids made sugared grapes – luscious rounds coated with a crust
Of sparkling hoarfrost.  I slice warm bread, drizzle garlic butter on the face
Of each piece and set it on the table.  Husband peels the wax skin
Off the cheese. I scrub the cast iron skillet then wipe it with oil
Till it gleams.  Husband opens the door to call the kids in from the garden.
They spill in with the slanting sun.  I tell them to wash their hands.

At my chair the sleeping cradled baby’s hands
Curl open like petals.  The sunlight halos his head and a crust
Of milk has dried on his cheek.  We look ‘round the table at our garden,
Full of impatient life, the evening sun glowing on each face.
Suddenly I see I live with heedless saints who, all unknowing, pour the oil
Of their spirits over my rough heart and salve my chaffed skin.

I take out the garbage and freezing rain pierces my shocked skin.
Husband clears the dishes while upstairs I fill my hands
With washrag and soapy child.  Husband creeps up and daubs my neck with bath oil.
Inside we thickly mulch each child with blankets, outside ice forms a crust
On muddy puddles.  In the warm bed Husband’s beard tickles my face.
Ice rain scatters and pebbles against the window.  I dream of the garden.

In my dream a new garden breaks through the crust
Of a bare earth.  Fresh oil like sunlight drenches my skin
And I lay the curves of my face in warm and tender hands


  1. So many beautiful images in these lines. I especially like the connection between gardening and the children: "we thickly mulch each child with blankets."

  2. So gorgeous. This is a poetic form I haven't tried in a long time. Thanks for the inspiration to try it on my own.

  3. What incredible images you have planted in my mind! I had to read and reread and reread. Each time I read, I understood it better. Wow!

  4. This poem is impressive - the ideas, the images and the words are so well thought through. I can imagine that it took some deliberate writing time to craft it so beautifully.