Tuesday, August 02, 2005

a poem with love from prague

Astronomical Sestina

Waiting for the hour
to strike, a swift wind blew
across Old Town Square, dead
leaves and lost postcards aimless,
skimming over my feet. I watch
freckles rise on cold

arms, suppress July rain-cold
with a shiver. Quarter to the hour
noon according to my watch,
but I can’t read this clock, with its blue
and gold, its four hands motionless,
framed by sins and death.

When I was fifteen, my mother died,
gave in to January cold
and cancer, her last breath soundless.
I lit a church candle—our
Catholic prayer—flame glowed blue
in the wake of snow outside. I still watch

the fire dance in my head, watch
wax melt, remember her dying
for days wrapped in translucent blue
veins, oxygen cords, cold
cloths and warm blankets. The hours
passed slowly then, much less

speed than now, alone in Prague, lost
in a crowd hoping to watch
the Astronomical Clock tip the hourglass,
golden bell chiming by death’s
skeletal hand. Were there crowds that cold
winter? Did their hands turn blue

like my mother’s, blue
and shrinking? Did the timeless
clock chime when her cold
body released its soul to the watchful
eye of God? The wind dies
as the Astronomical Clock’s hour

strikes. Blue doors open and I watch
apostles parade, waving. No one dies
here. Another cold hour past.


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