Sestina for Dad

Today is your birthday–
or was. I don’t know
what it is now that you
are dead–just a shadow
to remind us that last year
we gave you tickets

to a KU game–tickets
for you and Matt to celebrate the day;
a festive end to a pretty good year.
We didn’t know
how near to valley of the shadow
we were. “Happy birthday to you!”

Without a hint of foreboding we sang: “Happy birthday to you!”
and were proud of the tickets
we presented. Oblivious to the shadows
gathering. I was the sick one that day,
and I let everyone know
how unfair it was that I had to start the new year

with the stomach flu–give up my once-a-year
romantic getaway reservations to you
and Mom. “Who knows,”
I moaned, “when I will ever get away.” So KU tickets
and a little vacation–not a bad birthday.
Please know that the shadow

of resentment I felt then–that shadow
of disappointment at missing a yearly
pleasure–burst into light and tears the day
I realized that you
and Matt would not use any tickets,
you and Mom would not visit any bed and breakfasts together again. I know

this realization was as cliche as it was heartbreaking. I know
this day–your birthday–will always be shadow:
like Christmas, anniversaries, KU basketball tickets,
like every New Year–
just three days from the day you
were born; just seventy days from the day

you–well, you know–
from the day you quit caring about any tickets,
from the day that began these years of glorious shadow.


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Categories: Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Sestina for Dad

  1. Joanna, you are so gifted with the art of writing. It must be so helpful to be able to express your feelings in poetry and you do it so beautifully. This has been a hard day for the family but such great memories.

  2. Dawn

    Oh, Joanna! This was wonderful! Thank you for sharing it. My mother died suddenly almost 20 yrs. ago. (I was in the hosp. w/ my 3rd child, 2nd daughter’s birth.) I am sorry for your loss. Nobody ever again loves you as much as your mother (or/and father, too I suppose)…. Blessings to you in the New Year. I know how hard it is to adjust to a parent’s absence and void.

    • Thanks, Dawn. What a mix of emotions that must have been for you in the midst of birth and death all at once. I suppose we all are much of the time–but not usually so obvious. Blessings to you.

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