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Sestina Gratitude

by Joyelle McSweeney
Illustration by Sarah Maloney

Sestina Gratitude

Joyelle McSweeney
10 Snaps
Thank you in gold particle. Thank you in wave. Thank you any zygote worth its salt.
Bend down to be capacitated. Bend down to take your crown. Thank you
parting membrane. Thank you for the crown
that wants to be a noose. Thank you—slip down,
cervical vertebrae. Thank you, fontanel. You have turned this brain
into a fosse. Thank you scouts 


spreading out across the grain. Your doggy snouts
now pick up the scent of blood. Thank you thought, that salty
tinsel ribboning the hundred dollar bill. Thank you, rib bone. The brain
mints double currency, twin waves at twin across a river, you
my brother and you, my veiny border. For you I roll my syndrome down
to zero. I stop the clock; a stopped clock’s a double crown


and it says zero zero, while the crowd 
shouts from the bleachers, bleached of stain, shouts
shalts and shalt nots while the ball crests, sinks down
to fill the basket like a crown, upside down. Water and salt
fill the isolation tank where this moment is suspended, you
and your brain rock there, sapless as a brain


-dead babe. Sadcoat, trenchcoat, dressed for war, a drain
to drain the wound and a drain fitted to the heart, crowded
with gold husks, principles, fixtures, faults, bacteria, you
golden hand that melts the bone, shout
at the bullet smelter, two lungs hung-up in the steeple, salt
lantern blown out corrosive, smearing the sea with blond down.


Down comes the beam, it decays and sheds, it lays a lacquer down 
under the golden dome, the brain in its jacket
shines and shines and lies down in the salt marsh
down in the kennel with the hunting dogs, crowded with breath,
and accommodates a gold bullet in both hemispheres, the bullet shouts
thought’s steeple down. You


lie down like a river as thought spills out on straw. You
are the liquor that steams down
the seam of the jeans. You the suture stemmed with gold, stout
rivets, miner’s hammer, you the hammer to the brain, 
you the footfall of the scouts, shouts in the thicket, you the crowd
that waves its tickets, blond train smeared with light, trail of salt


which marks the battledress like a wingbeat drawn on serge.  You
the surge, the shout. You the battledead, the widow’s salt, the bullet
in the crown. You the salted aquifer. The pulseless fontanel.




This poem is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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