Contests Poems

Gran’ma’s Sestina

Poem by Sophia Schlesinger, ’16

Second Place in Poetry Contest 2014

Before, in our house, there were never any tissues

A paper napkin was just as good to my mother,

No matter the circumstance- water spilt, and droplets running

That managed to slip through the links of just any old necklace

Hanging just below the collar, just above the heart

Light as a feather, existing as something close to a ghost


It wasn’t a stranger, this particular type of ghost

It always came as a gift, the necklace

Given, as necklaces only can be given, by a mother

The shape didn’t matter, be it disk or square or heart

What mattered was that it was wrapped in tissue

When given; dry tissue, dry eyes, unfolded scrap of silk and hands running


When the time finally came, there was no running

It took little time: For the sunken heart

came sympathy– weary bones and tear bathed necklace

And suddenly, our small house was filled of tissue,

Each stained with the scent of some lingering ghost

Who was no stranger to me or my mother


We prayed for the strength of a mother

But even so, accidents happened: the bathwater left running

Turning tepid in a porcelain prison, softly white as tissue.

Around our house was not my mother but a ghost

dressed in my mother’s black clothing, my mother’s silver necklace

A non-floating ghost, weighed down by heavy heart


Even so, most amazing is the heart

That still manages such alive, pink tissue

When iron will has rusted away and left only a ghost

And still, the heart loves the body as a mother

And miraculous that, everything still running

Inside healthy skin, black clothes, silver necklace


And then, from the other side of the country, came necklaces

From someone who was not– is not– yet a ghost

Heavy with beauty, this time, directly over our hearts

And, this time, no one was running

Received by daughter from mother to mother

Everything came wrapped in tissue


Any remaining ghosts leave our house running

We are protected by the necklaces of many mothers

And our hearts remain wrapped in and protected by tissue

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