Sestina

i. In the Polaroid from ’81, her dress was lemon yellow.
With sandaled feet, she stood like Mary,
bowing her head to morning.
I search her grin for veiled discontent, and find
instead, a joy pooled at her mouth, sitting
between the cherry lips and waiting.

ii. The thick waterbeads licked my face and I continued wading
in the aboveground, admiring the orangey-yellow-
painted toes and the poised crossed legs of my mother, sitting
on the deck my uncle built (stairs crooked—charming). And she was merry
inside her own reverie, a secret place she found
out of necessity, and she shined inside like morning.

iii. She had me wear Catholic jumpers but we skipped church on Sunday mornings, and I lay in bed until 11, waiting
for the God of Father Brucker and the Sisters to find
me instead. Sunny-side up, Michael liked eggs runny with yellow
to scoop with his toast. I ate my blueberry pancakes, praying to Mary
not to burn our souls—I’ll have faith, does it matter where I sit?

iv. The boxy Chevy Baretta—Michael sat,
watching her adjust the windshield sunshade, blocking July morning.
She hummed half-sang to the Beatles: “Mother Mary
comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” I was waiting
for her cigarette to burn to filter between fingers stained yellow—
she glanced down, smiling, her hand guiltily fingering the lighter I’d found.

v. Phone to my ear, wrapped in a tangled cobweb cord, I try to find
her breath and the seconds are hours. The hours are minutes, sitting,
debating the consequence of her skin—a pale yellow;
I wonder if I will look different in mourning.
The hospital chairs—stiff, unsympathetic—and I’m waiting,
mesmerized by the grey lips of relatives, each murmuring a practiced Hail Mary.

vi. But in July, swollen plump like a tropical fruit, and lately married,
was she still trying to find
(It’s quickly fading, the joy that was sitting
on her lips) the pretty bits of morning?
Or was she already waiting
(it’s like she knew) for the edges to turn yellow?

vii. In the church of my misfaith, I’ll watch the world marry. And wherever I’m sitting in the future, I will find the corners, dimly-lit. Hand outstretched, Mourning won’t wait for me any longer, but I’ll request it remain, a primary shade—my life’s yellow.