He spends time liberally, costly hours like pennies
not knowing how the clock goes round,
somehow grasps time isn’t something he can seize
or pause, or stop entirely. No, it’s something to soak up.
I am counting time like pennies, the mother
who knows one hour is kept in fragile glass.
We spent one hour by the brook, around
dinnertime, he chasing leaves suddenly sees
a starfish in a leaf, or looking up–
paper wasp’s nest: dangerous mother
of anxieties. The brook as calm as glass
and him breathless, wondering, on his knees.
He spins a leaf down the high seas
of a country brook, races back up
the rocky edge, handing rock, stick, leaf to his mother
then back to stare at his own reflection in the water glass
this boy who still curls up on my knees
at bedtime, while I wish for one more time around.
I try to slip time’s knot, I’m tangled up
in love and hate with repetition as I mother
Children are our looking-glass–
the only way I can face this is on my knees
prayers for sons–their trips around
the sun hold beauty they can seize
He spends time without adding it up,
what each moment costs a mother–
who watches time like leaves pass down the river’s glass
surface. We leave. He runs, knees
flying, turning my world around,
innocent of his ability to seize
and hold the heart of his mother
If I could keep this moment under glass
this river, these boys, those knees
covered in dirt, I’d throw armfuls of pennies around
until my time was spent seeing all he sees,
daring even to look up!
I cannot fall, for I am glass. Bent knees
but looking up, another day comes around.
A mother sees.
This poem took me over ninety minutes to write. It needs a lot of work, as I wanted more concrete imagery and unification of theme.
It’s written in the Sestina form, a fixed verse form consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a three-line envoi (commentary on body of the poem). You might notice the ending rhyme of the stanzas rotate the same six words (mother, glass, knees, around, sees, up), and these six words are repeated in the 3-line stanza as well. I took some liberties with the end words (pennies / knees, sees / seize / seas).
The constrictions of the form make this a difficult poem to tackle, yet I find a lot of enjoyment in using the form to help guide my thoughts. According to Wikipedia, “The strength of the sestina, according to Stephen Fry, is the ‘repetition and recycling of elusive patterns that cannot be quite held in the mind all at once’ “
I chose the Sestina form particularly because of its intense use of repetition – the concept I was trying to convey through this poem is that of the repetition of parenting. How as much as the days seem endlessly repetitive, there are moments we’d like to “keep under glass” forever. So in the repetition, find the beauty.
I hope a little of this concept was conveyed through the poem. Again, it’s first draft quality. I’d like to work on this a bit more.