I come home early, feel the pale house close
around me as the pressure of my blood
knocks at my temples, feel it clench me in
its cramping grasp, the fierceness of its quiet
sanctioning the small and listless hope
that I might find it mercifully empty.
Dazed, I turn the taps to fill the empty
tub, and draw the bathroom door to close
behind me. I lie unmoving, feel all hope
leaching from between my legs as blood
tinges the water, staining it the quiet
shade of a winter evening drifting in
On sunset. Again, no shoot of life sprouts in
this crumbling womb that wrings itself to empty
out the painfully-planted seeds. The quiet
doctors, tomorrow, will check their notes and close
the file, wait for the hormones in my blood
to augur further chances, more false hope.
My husband holds to patience, I to hope,
and yet our clockworks are unwinding. In
the stillness of the house, we hear our blood
pumped by hearts that gall themselves, grow empty:
once, this silence, shared, could draw us close
that now forebodes us with a desperate quiet.
I hear him at the door, but I lay quiet,
as if, by saying nothing, I may hope
that somehow his unknowingness may close
a door in all the darkness we’ve let in:
the nursery that’s seven years too empty;
the old, unyielding stains of menstrual blood.
Perhaps I wish the petitioning of my blood
for motherhood might falter and fall quiet,
perhaps I wish that we might choose to empty
our lives of disappointment, and of hope,
but wishes founder—we go on living in
the shadow of the cliffs now looming close:
the blood that’s thick with traitorous clots of hope;
the quiet knack we’ve lost, of giving in;
the empty room whose door we cannot close.
This is the most unrelenting, keening sestina I know. Sestinas can be awfully labored, but this one moves on like an unstoppable machine, steamrolling along. It’s about, of course, In-Vitro Fertilization, and the narrator’s painful inability to conceive. What an excruciating experience, but which the poet makes into a truly great poem. I love trying my hand at sestinas, and I’ve written two half-decent ones, one about leaving America and one about (what else?) failed love.