Of Headlines and Morning Coffee: A Sestina
by Michelle Holland


How persistent is the round morning sun to belong
over the rocky pipes of the Organ Mountains? The rays like a bell
have rung out each day clear to the west for eons of peace
long before our human gaze. Now, we ignore the resounding blue
that domes our curious dirt, our pits of construction edging out to the sea.
The earth's crust is thin, I think, our precarious presence on only one side.

The ink black of local headlines outline the frown on my side
of the breakfast table. Over oatmeal I announce I do not belong,
resist the inevitable gravity that pulls the trigger, pulls waves from the sea,
creates class and caste to structure violence around my borders, able
to pull two boys dead from a red Camaro, their mule backs black and blue
from hauling narcotics to the rich in Tijuana. This is no peace.

The deliberate flame of hunger strikes and gasoline pyres strike the face of peace.
The flat AP columns on the World News page knell of flood and fever, a constant side
of Mother Ganges, host to corpses. Women cry, scrub their laundry, as their blue
silk saris dry on the rocks. Knobby-kneed old men talk in circles, belong
hip deep, on the other side of the world, gesturing to a lurid sun that sets over the bell
tower. A child sells votive candles to light and float on flower boats to the sea.

They may carry souls to Tijuana, more fodder for the salty tides of every sea.
"1,000 murders a year, six execution style killings." Mercenaries for a piece
or a price hit easy targets -- attorneys and public accountants at close range, a bell
weather of war "high above the seedy downtown," on green lawns, the other side
of poverty. "...a waiting room filled with bodies" from any neighborhood belongs

like sleeping porches used to. Remember when Belgians walked under umbrellas in the blue
African sun? "Zaire Zoo Animals Disappearing," the keeper points to the skulls, "See,
they died of hunger." "When the soldiers ate the elephants we knew it wouldn't be long
before the rest would go." The crocodile last ate part of Romeo, shared with the keepers a piece
of the familiar chimpanzee. "It's a sign of collapse of everything in Zaire." I sighed,
imagining the "popular bar and restaurant," now swept silent by 22 keepers. The dryer bell

rings me from the news to my everyday of laundry and children. The morning reliable
over the mountains, over this house. I want always to wake to my cranky husband whose blue
eyes meet mine every day. We hold our fort with beds of perennials on one side,
a strong galvanized stock tank we use for a pool on the other. Our daughters high frequency
clamor sends a joyful noise through the heat waves rising from the asphalt, creating peace
at last that I can breathe in with the heat of coffee. The scream of headlines says I belong

on my side of the table, where I must witness these dark flat words. I do belong
to the language that created them, the waves of loss, that created the undertow of a sea
that is not kind. I counter the words with what I know of love, and barely breathe "peace."






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