Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Sestina: A Valediction

Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Sestina: A Valediction

Article excerpt

(i.m. John Hollander, 1929-2013)

To the garden of the Texas beauty queen's

Roman villa (ex-Playboy centerfold

and Daughter of the American Revolution)

we were summoned one afternoon to plant a cherry

on Washingtons Birthday, noble and common

assembled to a sound of distant thunder;

or perhaps it was instead the sly thunder

of hooves from a statue (half-concealed by flowering quince)

of Priapic Pan, its common

attribution to Michelangelo, the sweet fold

between some nymphs legs, the attainable cherry,

having aroused it to a bawdy revolution,

wicked through the years' long revolution,

leering, indifferent to the little thunder

as we each put a shovelful of earth on the roots of the cherry,

hoping rain would hold off, and the Paphian Queen's

body shone nearby in one of her manifold

poses, our radiant hostess, in a silent come-on,

while we stood nonplussed on her private common

and she invoked the Daughters of the American Revolution

as liveried footmen belatedly did unfold

chairs for dignitaries, and the distant thunder

registered as concern on the beauty queen's

flawless face as she addressed the spindling cherry

("O Tree!") for all of us who had grown chary

of rain and speeches and even the common

tree-planting: though even commoner, in Queens,

New York where I stand now, is the revolution

that with modest ceremony and without thunder

puts a poet in the ground, in the earths fold. …

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