AN INHERITANCE: A SESTINA
I am heir to a dream I have dreamt before
When the air feels so light in my lungs
When the ground lifts me up to grasp at wanton stars
When the sky sings at night so as not to leave me lonely
Then I have slipped onto the throne of a dream
And I am queen, and waking would be death.
Sweet fantasies poison the blood, death:
You come easily in scenes I have seen before
You come when it seems nothing could harm a pleasant dream
Yet buoyancy is worthless to my lungs
And the constancy of being and company makes me lonely
And my skin burns from the uncaring malignance of lovely stars.
There is no space here but for burning stars
They will laugh until the coldness of the sound has them catch their death
And in the suddenness of silence I will be just as lonely
I will feel only my own warmth, as before
When the levity of my caregivers made wounds in my lungs
And I didn’t yet understand that a nightmare is not like to a dream.
So I slept on in peace, in a dream, for I called it a dream
And I loved what was left of stars, for they were still stars
And who could deny that their loveliness outweighed the pain of my lungs?
Except that loveliness is not love, and without air is death
And the sky killed my body as I had never thought it could before
But I stayed queen, because I was lonely.
Oh, what can be excused in the mind of a being who is lonely?
When is it a sinful indulgence to wish to dream?
Even if it hurts, because it hurt more before
And I can take the pain well on a cushioned throne beneath the stars
And I can fill up jars with the smiles that I smile while I wait for death
Because smiles mean more to me than the holes in my lungs.
The sky has no reason to give; it hasn’t my destitute lungs
And maybe it does not know how it makes me lonely
It couldn’t know that it will be with me until one’s death
So who are we to say that one should not, for too long, dream?
And who are you to keep me from being the one if the other can be the stars?
When all I ever wanted was for them to be more lovely than they were before.
When I hear death call me, I think I should sing from the top of my lungs.
I will sing: Oh, how I am better than before; how I get so lonely
And still go on to dream, for I am queen, and over this world, I pick the stars.
—from 2017 Rattle Young Poets Anthology
Why do you like to write poetry?
Saxon Kennedy: “I write poetry because the world is too big to comprehend without a bit of rhyming.”