Monday, September 10, 2007

Different Than This

This is the sestina referred to in the previous post. It was written for a Creative Writing class in 2002 and published in the college's literary magazine the following semester.

Linda G


The pickup stopped along the highway, and a tall young man
stepped out. He approached the parked car and heard the cries of a woman.
Aw, shit, he mumbled. She was in labor, damn close to giving birth.
He couldn't do this alone--he was scared to death.
But she continued to scream, for what seemed an eternity,
and he wondered why things couldn't be different.

All he ever wanted was a clean start, to do something different
with his life. He'd committed some petty crimes, but he wasn't an evil man.
The thought of spending eternity
behind bars was something he couldn't handle. Maybe this woman
was his chance. Maybe he'd finally get ir right before his own death
stared him in the face. He turned to the woman, said
I've never done a birth

before, ma'am
. She tried to smile, pushed one last time and gave birth
to what was surely a perfect baby boy. He always thought it would be different
than this. Always thought of it as more like a death--
of innocence, maybe, surely of life as a mother knew it. The man
had a flickering sense of pride, but he knew the woman
had done it herself, hadn't needed him. As it had been and would be for eternity.

Why was he thinking about eternity?
He'd been baptized a few weeks after his birth
by his mother, a goodhearted woman
who believed it was the right thing to do for a baby. Then she took a different
turn in her life and ended up with the wrong man
who drank too much and was responsible for his mother's early death.

Growing up without her was hard, and he was frightened of death.
He had nightmares about it, and worred about spending eternity
in a dark place. When he turned eighteen he began looking for the man
who'd taken his mother from him. Now nothing seemed to matter except this birth
he'd just witnessed. He'd see that this boy would have a different
life than he'd had--he would take care of the boy and the woman.

He was sure she felt the same way. He took her hand, and the woman
smiled at him, whispered a thank you, and slipped into the sleep of death.
He always thought that love would be different
than this. He thought he'd find a love that would last into eternity,
not one that would end so soon by something as commonplace as birth.
He held the baby and wept, a broken man.

A man and a woman, from different walks of life,
joined together in birth and death,
and he knew they would be together for eternity.


Anonymous said...

Linda, what a fine poetic illustration of "sestina"! I won't forget that word or your poem.

Linda G said...

Thanks, Sue. I hope that anyone who reads this remembers that I wrote it as a joke, not as a literary piece. I was totally amazed by the response at the time!

Orange said...

Hell, woman, you picked "death" and "birth" for two of your words! It came out beautifully even if you were just ripping it out for fun. Somehow I never learned that's what a sestina is--thanks for the poetry lesson.

Linda G said...

Thanks, Orange. You're too young to remember Ben Casey, unless it was in reruns at some time. The show began with drawing the symbols (and a voiceover) for man, woman, birth, death, infinity. That's what came to mind when I had to think of six words, so I changed infinity to eternity and pulled different out of somewhere.

Unknown said...

Assyr. is for Assyrians who lived in Ninevah.

If say, you h ave ten dollars and spend 2, you have 8 left.

In other words, suppose you have ten dollars, etc.

Thanks for help on admission to bail - and i had no idea what was happening in the left hand corner where I had PCTGE ( a percentage of a company I thought) which of course meant that I missed "spell" and "orle" completely and never filled in 21 across (never heard of relaps without the "E" - it did however fit nicely with capital offenses and the defense rests which feel into place pretty early.

Oh well I enjoy your comments and insight, Carol