Sestina Minus One; A Buoyant Future for Us All

Sestina Minus One
The picture is complete except a father.
The kids are on the floor trading marbles.
The mother is trying not to be too crabby
while sneaking a peek at her watch.
In the yard a squabble has broken out among the squirrels.
Let’s title this portrait “absence.”

The kids stayed home and didn’t mind their absence
from school at first, but then their father’s
death began to gnaw at them like the canines of squirrels
and they fought over the marbles
while their mother, limp, stood watch
wondering what makes a crab crabby

because everything made her crabby.
Alive, he irked her and now irks her worse in his absence.
She looks ahead to days—years—on permanent child watch,
the house packed with father smell but no father.
She’s going to lose her marbles.
The chitter of her children drowns out the squirrels’.

She laughs to realize she envies the squirrels
who are too busy trying to stay alive to grow crabby.
She eyes one who stands clutching a walnut, still as marble,
and she wishes she could hoard company against the absence.
At the wake she leaned heavily on her own father
when she swore the face in the casket started to melt; she
couldn’t watch.

For her birthday he was going to buy her a new watch,
but she told him to use the overtime pay he’d squirreled
away for a college fund for the kids like a prudent father.
They were going to drive down to Rehoboth for the soft-shell crabs.
Imagine vacationing with the designated driver absent!
So much for fixing the bathroom; she must remember to return
the samples of faux-marble.

She’s as absent-minded as a squirrel
with its marble-sized brain in the yard on nut watch.
She prays for grief to come soon and sanctify this crabbiness, o
holy Father.