Sestina 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.

Sarah Dunster is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her poems have been published in Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Segullah Magazine, and Victorian Violet Press. Her short fiction piece, Back North, is featured in Segullah’s Fall 2011 issue. Her novel Lightning Tree will be released this week by Cedar Fort. Sarah has six children and one on the way and loves writing almost as much as she loves being a mom. Link here to other Sarah’s other contributions to WIZ, including an excerpt of her novel.

*Competition entry*


3 thoughts on “Sestina by Sarah Dunster”

  1. I have read and reread this poem since it was posted. Something sinister goes on in it, something like the unavoidable march to the grave, one tiny wrinkle, gray hair, mouthful of dust at a time. But then I can’t shake the feeling that the poem is an extended riddle of the “what am I?” variety. I love it.


  2. I wrote this one several years ago during an unsettling time in my life…it keeps coming back toe iver the years, as I look back and see how life has gone since. Back then, it was kind of a mourning fory own lost naivete and innocense, and a mourning of what might have been…now I see it as a moment of rememberance for a tough journey taken…looking back on it from the other side, and glad for how the sort of half expressef wishes have come abundantly true.


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