Jeffrey Ewing The 2River View, 5.4 (Summer 2001)

Sestina Near Sunset

Near sunset a dog lopes home
looking back over its shoulder
toward the dying sky
the light of the new night
igniting before it its own shadow
like a clock winding itself.

It is sometimes not the thing itself
but its inversion that brings us nearest home,
not the family gathered on the lawn but its canted shadow-
the arm outstretched, the hand clasped desperately to shoulder,
inseparable and false as the night
that falls like batsong from the trilling sky,

So that whatever else descends from that same sky
inevitably also draws unto itself
the sour knowledge that in this night
in this home
the crying shoulder
has lost to the mercury of light and shadow.

Retrieve then the book from the shadow
thrown by the sideboard edged with sky,
let the light falling over your shoulder
collect and pool until time itself
is utterly at home
and careless in the familiar, dog-eared night.

Invite it in, the raveling night,
steep in its shadow
render far from home
the billeted sky
into something not itself
and ignore the cold seeping into your neck and shoulder.

It is not, I'm afraid, the same shoulder
that could once shovel or row all night,
or wounded could heal itself
and carry effortlessly into shadow
the full heft of the sky
before ferrying at last the long line of children home.

Home, though—it may help to know—
is not only there, in that book,
in that coming night;
it is also here, in the earned arc of this new shoulder
falling at last into shadow
rounded and worn into perfection
like the sky itself.

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2River All is well.