Sestina: Poetry

By Sarah Dunster


How long, I wonder, will I wait

for broods to gather round my legs.

And I’ll have feed. Every dry mouth

will fill, for ripening cheeks. I glean

from spare fields, following, with two

shallow baskets. My hands are old.


At ten I fancied to be old

enough to take my own train, wait

by myself on benches. With two

more years to run on young spring legs

I fished like mad and scrapped to glean

sweet, white flakes for my greedy mouth.


When I first shut my parching mouth

against the dust that made me old

I watched a grey crow scratch and glean

for moldy bread. I thought to wait

to see if it would beak my legs

and try to find a crumb or two.


Then ants came marching two by two

across my prickling, salty mouth.

I swallowed, tried to bend my legs

and run to catch up with the old

-est, brownest boy. He couldn’t wait

for me to bend my back and glean.


When Marchest days brought winds that gleaned

a tree branch of its pear or two,

I thought to ask my love to wait

while I found seeds and crammed my mouth

and prayed for fruit before I’m old

enough to trip on tottering legs.


The grass still cut my blue-skinned legs

before I knelt with shears to glean

as stars crept out. The moon was old

and almost full. I wished for two

more pomegranates. Watch this mouth

shake, catching flakes. And still I wait.


The wheat grows old as I try two

crumbs and cross my legs. The crows glean

for worms. I press my mouth and wait.


(Originally published in Wilderness Interface Zone)