From Best American Poetry 1996

Sestina for Jaime

Sestina For Jaime She remembers him in the freedom of summer,/ And his friends, teeth chattering from the cold/ Plunge into the green flow of the June river

The woman and the boy look back at the years
They have spent together. At what she will leave: the river,
The Santiam that flows cold
From the mountains over its bed of rock
Into the wide Willamette, warm in the summer;
And the sound roof and sturdy walls of their house.

Now that they have more or less deserted this house---
He only sleeps in it; she plans to return in some years---
Now that she will not plan their summer
Around work whose reward is to lifeguard at the river,
Now that she is walled behind an official sort of rock,
And he has come to find the water uninvitingly cold,

He remembers her holding back, afraid of the cold
Water, reading instead on the boat dock; how the house,
A few hours each day, got painted; and the rock
Cliff with its rope where for years
His friends had swung out over the river
Into the deep pools of summer.

She remembers him in the freedom of summer,
And his friends, teeth chattering from the cold
Plunge into the green flow of the June river,
When he alone could coax her from the house
Where she hid out, from what, for years,
He did not know. Their life was like the rock

Walls of the Santiam Canyon, he thought: Rock,
River, Mother, Son, sun, swimming, living for the summer.
She thought they had all the years
Of their lives to buy pizza and cold
Drinks for his friends, pay for painting the house
When they swam too well to need her at the river.

She dreams she has become the flow of the river,
And, basking in sun, that she has always been rock,
That she once tried to keep house,
Baking cookies for a human boy. He dreams it is summer,
That he still has a mother holding back from the cold,
And watching, watching him. It has been years

Since he painted the house in summer.
He loads another log into the stove against the cold.
He's added a Zen garden of plants and river rock. It took him years.


~Katherine A. Power