Tracy Gaughan – Sestina Land

Tracy Gaughan LEP&W V3 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three December 2022.

Sestina: Land, poems by Tracy Gaughan.

Sestina: Land

after Jonah Winter

(from Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle)

Turning from the miserable land
The desolate land
To a narrow strip of fertile land
Some sixty miles distant from land
A land gently rising with the presence of woodland
And a dull bank of clouds hanging over the land

We left our own land
Approached this unknown other land
Were prevented from landing
By a fringe of low mountainous land
An undulating land
With a curse of sterility upon the land

Unwilling to land
We slept in the neck of the land
But on the second day made land
Because the inhabitants of this savage land
Wished to direct us where to land
Declared there was no devil on this land

Only vast numbers of seashells scattered over the land
And curious rings of coral on the land
Like specimens obtained at Van Dieman’s land
Here, the sea ate deeply back into the land
Changed the form of the land
And all the features of the land

Determined, we proceeded inland
Toward the thickly wooded forestland
Yielding all the rich productions of a tropical land
Then successive steps of table-land
Absolute proof of recent elevations of land
Of newly formed oceanic land

Of good sloping, richly manured land
With cattle living on the highland
And other coloured beasts on the lower land
Some primeval caught far from their own land
Yet, here among the islets and the broken land
They were the owners of several square miles of land

Who purchased the land, the desertland
The limits of the forest land, the alluvial, little cultivated land
The island where few persons have landed

Silver Birch

it is the apex of beauty in the garden
the sky is at its bluest
rhododendrons burst in the heat.

you’re a bent head over a grave
bark peeling like paper
from the walls of your heart

and Nadar is taking photographs
of you. Your toes in the earth
arms a chaplet of sharp leaves

snapping at the light, your uneasy face,
with all the world’s hurts etched on it
lost in the canopy.

he’s stroking pensile catkins,
spreading the vulval cleft of virginal skin
as though searching for a pen on his desk

and you’re trying to take your mind off it
staring across an indifferent meadow
where sheep stand shoulder to shoulder

eating corn pellets at a feeder fence
while Nadar is taking photographs
like you’re a spectacle, an apology,

not the pillar of virtue men named
before dissecting their absolutes,
finding epicene truths there: dyads

of the holy sap and the diamond fissure,
man womanly, woman manly, living
under a meagre umbrella of what can be
called nature and what cannot.

© Tracy Gaughan

Tracy Gaughan is a writer and editor based in Galway, Ireland. Her work has appeared in Crannóg, ROPES, The Blue Nib, Dedalus Press anthology and elsewhere. Tracy holds a master’s degree in International Literature and was a finalist in the Jacar Press Eavan Boland Award. A Forward Prize nominee, she is the recipient of Arts Council funding and is a mentee on the Irish National Mentorship programme. Her collective anthology Pushed Toward the Blue Hour is published by Nine Pens Press.

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