Issue: Spring 2017
To view the sestina in it’s intended format, please click here.
Honorable Mention, R.T. Smith Prize for Narrative Poetry
Who can resist a narrative that employs an old, almost mandarin form for its movement? “A Sestina for Traveling Season” is timely and compassionate, the story of our restless kind struggling and evolving across the ages, as triggered by an airport experience.
A Sestina for Traveling Season
“the same ‘species’ that are nonindigenous, naturalized, or invasive in one area are native somewhere else”
– R. I. Colautti and H. J. MacIsaac, 2004
“articles imply that they have become disconnected to their homelands and will never return”
– B. Subramaniam, 2001
“we are now part of the way the world is”
– B. M. H. Larson, 2007
At passport control, I stand with nonresident aliens,
Cocooned in sounds of other languages, murmured exotic
Syllables. Think of the babies in this queue, tiny ears naturalized
To trills, clicks, retroflexes. They’ll grow. They’ll learn to filter native
From foreign, dismiss uncommon words, unseasoned travelers, spot the
Stance, the fledgling grip of starlings about to leave their nests.
Nuisance, they’ll hiss. Go away, people say, but kudzu persists. Emerald invasive,
Reforming the South in its image. Visiting cousins marvel the alien
Landscape—they expected steel flash, concrete and neon. Don’t immigrants
Always settle the city of New York? You, seasoned traveler, recognize
the real exotic—
Houses under live oak roofs, Spanish moss curtains, stately walls of native
Pines, planted orchards. That breeze of orange blossom—Asian perfume,
Is this home? I could tell you where to go to fix the holes in your boots.
Citizens differ from me by paperwork—they pass while I’m processed,
Questions about my intentions—I will not settle here, I’ll return to my native
Land, I’ll carry tales of your politics, histrionic as my people’s own. Alien
Among aliens, I nod at other unseasonable travelers. Note pedigree
The wanted and the unwanted, l’européens e los indios, émigré and immigrant.
Summer yawns sallow breath into winter. You, recent immigrant,
Unaccustomed, consider acclimation to weather a sign of naturalization
Even songbirds, seasonal travelers, decided not to leave, fill the air with exotic,
Anachronous music. Underwood, beetle grubs molt off their youth to invasive
Warmth, fly with egg-thoughts for new trees. Rust consumes the
evergreen woods, alien
False-fall of sap-parched leaves. In this climate, we act as we are driven,
Desire. Why else build airports? The urge to scatter is inborn code, the innate
Feeling of spring-loaded peas within desiccated pods. Snap. Past immigration,
We swamp the baggage carousels, parched of our belongings, alienated
From our bundled homes for too long. We identify luggage by minutiae.
The fingerprint of nicks and scratches on each suitcase is unique. We invade
Each other’s personal space to reclaim our own. Blame traveling
season, the exoticized
Period of time when the sun shines brightest upon an other’s nest. The exotic
Pull of a new world, the lust for rich earth. We do not speak the native
Tongue, cannot ask permission to stay. Years pass, and an invasive
Thought burrows behind our sinuses, the heels of our feet. The immigrant’s
Curse—to adapt, to feel at home when so far from, to become naturalized,
Untraveled, unseasoned, unable to turn around. To be settled feels terrible,
We burst and scatter, again, the exotic restlessness that brands
us forever immigrant.
Forget airports, we’ll settle Mars, make native the rarefied air.
Are none but last season’s invasives, who disowned their former
travels as alien.