Sestina of Seven Births by Tyler Chadwick

1. 27 November 2006, Morning
They’d said it would come,
with December just around the bend.
Still it caught me off guard. Outside
in pajama pants, t-shirt, bare feet, waiting
for the dog to make: the first flakes layered
cornered leaves with winter’s afterbirth.

2. 16 July 2003: Our First
The day Sidney was born,
her water came
on the bathroom floor. As I’d layered
a towel to soak the spill, my wife bent
over the head to catch any leaks, waiting
for labor to turn her insides

3. New Mother
Sitting beside
the ashen body of her stillborn
son, waiting
for the cry that never came,
she bent
her breath across his chest, warming the empty layers.

4. 12 February 2006, 2:23 AM: Our Second
Rising through layers
of sleep into wet sheets, she’d stood beside
our bed, questioned her continence while bending
lamp light across the spill. €œLooks like your birthday
present’s coming, €
I’d said as she winced at the onset of labor’s weight.

5. Sarah
As she wearied beneath the weight
time layered
on her womb, he came
to her. Inside
the tent, a moonbeam gave birth
to galaxies as her universe bent

to God’s touch.

6. On the Lake
Ripples bend
the water’s crimson weight,
distorting autumn’s birth
with each stroke layered
on stroke. Reaching over the canoe’s east side,
our nine month daughter watches her reflection go and come.

7. Solstice
Rereading €œThe Second Coming € on a winter night, birds bending
circles inside Yeats’ words as the tide spanning generations waits
to drown my own, I draw the poet’s layered veil and fall into Christ’s crimson birth.


Tyler Chadwick is a doctoral candidate in English & the Teaching of English at Idaho State University. He spends his time husbanding his wife, Jessica; fathering four little girls; teaching writing foundations online for Brigham Young University-Idaho; reading; writing; and researching contemporary American poetry. He’s also an avid runner. His poems have appeared in Metaphor, Dialogue, Irreantum, Salome, Black Rock & Sage, and The Victorian Violet Press Poetry Journal. In 2009, he received the Ford Swetnam Poetry Prize and in 2010 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Visit Tyler’s blog Chasing the Long White Cloud.   To see other poems he has published on WIZ, go here, here, here, here, here, here, and last, but not least, here.


15 thoughts on “Sestina of Seven Births by Tyler Chadwick”

  1. Thanks, Jonathon.

    To be honest, this poem’s about as old as the date of my first stanza, though, admittedly, four isn’t really that old in writing years. My style’s evolved some since then, but I still like the juxtaposition of images and experiences.


  2. You’re always turning me back to my childbirths, Tyler, to the blood and water of it all, to the slick little bodies just emerged, to the afterbirth and the body swells and the waves of sheer power and force. I appreciate the reminders. 🙂

    I wonder if you might have missed your calling as a surgeon. The visceral qualities of your work give it the feel of just coming out of the operating or delivery room. Or out of a deep, archetypal, blood-and-bone dream.



  3. I read this on your website the other day.
    I love me a good sestina. I like how you kept the form a little big rougher here. I like how the subject matter is a heartwrenching thing–
    both hapy and tragic, all mixed up, because that’s really just life. As a mother, I can identify emotionally with this poem.


  4. Patricia: I’m glad to have served as a reminder of something I will never experience myself. Maybe that means I’ve achieved some degree of empathy through my explorations of experience and embodiment with language. Or maybe it’s just dumb luck.

    As for your surgeon comment: you could have mentioned something years ago when I was contemplating this whole English thing (and I won’t take as an excuse that we’ve really only just become acquainted). I might have been out of med school by now and on a doctor’s salary. For shame…

    Then again, I didn’t really start dissecting the flesh and bone of mortality until I gave myself over to language as a livelihood. Go figure, eh?


  5. I googled your name a while back, after your email, because I wasn’t exactly sure who you were, though your name seemed familiar. And your site was one of the first results. So apparently some do still read it:)


  6. What does that mean, Tyler–“Something I will never experience myself”? Of course you’ve experienced it, in your perceptive, shared, between I-and-Thou way. And you’re opening the experience to us, now. Besides, so much of any experience escapes us, there’s always so much energy flying off any event.

    And yes, you’re right–I accept responsibility for the lateness of my remark, retroactively. I should better trust language’s wormhole qualities and think forward and backward with more fluid imagination.


  7. “Of course you’ve experienced it, in your perceptive, shared, between I-and-Thou way. And you’re opening the experience to us, now.”

    I’ll concede to that point, Patricia. What I perhaps should have said was that I’ll never physically birth a child, even though, as you point out, I can enter the experience somehow through the act of imagination and open that to others through the acts of language. Thanks for pushing me to greater clarity (as you always do!).


  8. Thanks for pushing me to greater clarity (as you always do!).

    Bummer. I was just trying to play. But because we’re both VSCs (Very Serious Children), it always seems to go awry and turn into burning insight.


  9. It might get you out of jury duty. Defense lawyers don’t want a VSC on their jury panel. Now that lawyers are developing the habit of visiting prospective jurors’ Facebook pages, you might wish to consider whether or not you want to crash or enhance your chances of serving on a jury by self-identifying as a VSC.

    BTW, Leslie Norris told me that, whenever he was called up for jury duty, he made sure to identify his occupation as “writer.” He believed that was why he never was chosen to serve on a jury.


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