Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Word Made Flesh

The kiss that passes from your mouth to mine is a word
First learned. Such strange tenderness, in the full
Rose of your blushing mouth. This is a love song, though you
Are not my first. But I have known you since you were complicated:
All shadows and bones made of light, I have seen your sisters
Tug you into the world by the length of your limbs.

I am here you signal with your semaphore limbs
On daily waking, every morning a new bewildering word
Wielded in the drama of laundry and breakfast and sisters
You look out the window at landscapes stretched under a full
And golden sun, a dangerous kisser (it’s complicated),
Renewed everyday from the same ancient light source: you

Who are the centre of everything understands this, you
Who wears yourself out like clockwork, your mechanical limbs
Chugging along the floor towards anything complicated
So you might understand it with your fingers, speak its word
Fathom it with your emerging cerebrum to the full
In the same way you long to comprehend the intricate sisters.

For example you know that like your own hands, sisters
Come in twos, rolling around on the floor, they are like you
But so long, so complete in their power, so risen, so full.
They weave and dance they plait their limbs,
They speak with tangled tongues, and each comes with a word
That is the shape of their faces, their complicated

Selves which began in the shadow- and light-world and complicated
My body, split me into shards of matter, into sisters
And now brother of the tender kiss. You are the word
I couldn’t think of before I went to sleep, I couldn’t think of you
Until I felt the press of your burning skull and your limbs
Aslither from the tightness of me, an emptying of what was full.

I will never be that vessel again, I will never be so full,
I will never be so starving and cram packed, so complicated.
You are the last of them to arrive, the last package of limbs
The last precious gift of skull. No more brothers, no more sisters
For something was born that early afternoon, what was born was you,
What was born was the last, the final word.

I gathered you into my limbs and looked at your face full.
It took one word to make you complicated,
To give you to us and your sisters; I carved flesh to name you.

I was awed by Anna Ryan Punch's Sestina when she wrote it ages ago and reminded of it today when I saw her and Kat Apel, organised of Month of Poetry, chatting about it on Twitter, so I decided to give this puzzle like form a go. It took me a while to get my head around it, but I found writing it oddly hypnotic.


  1. Oh, you've nailed it Penni - the best use of this sort of form is when you don't notice the formal restrictions. It reads like it was always meant to use those words in that order. "Aslither from the tightness of me" gives me goosebumps.

  2. Beautiful, beautiful poem! I am in awe :)

  3. I love this one, Penni.