Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hartley Sestina by Madeline MacDougal

Cessation of the harbor cacophony here on the hilltop makes the silence a rhythm
The island's unceasing crisp tock in a lusty old metronome's persistence in town wears a circular life
Here the wind and the distance but quiets a gaggle, the muffled shore choruses sung by the winging white gulls
While this inland at hilltop, though sturdy, is buffeted, from mainland the spring wind still coming the island is swept
As still rolling in turbulent west winds, the pine boughs bend supply in sappiness, and, root-bound, on the hilltop are stuck
And Townhall's clocktower construction ensnares and obscures in lattices, green canvas--the clock is illegibly green

High flying, the view of below is a scene of the vast rounded contours in green
Looking earthward, the tiny speck islander people, so well timed, in traffic over Blynman the bridge keep in rhythm
But the island's dark center, the hills, in the forest, the wind-wavered trees and rocks in their own time seem stuck
See, it's silent, it's barren, it's carven from blue rocks so crudely, with piney bark clinging there, waiting on life
As if winter could not touch where the sands and the stones clicking slimily, happily in the waves, where the saltwaves have
Interrupting those silently waiting old hills in the air is a secret declared only by gulls

Screaming at it and over the rock strewn, deserted old place is the truth from the gulls
Who have seen flying over that inland that towers so tiredly above in its foliage land-tones of green
A man--just the one man--hobbling away from society, sketching and painting the landscapes with his brush that were swept
And the painter had claimed that these paintings of Dogtown depicted a place and its quietly musical rhythm
His paintings seemed so unlike it, while catching the sprites and their smiles and bringing the singing of menhirs to life
The rocks given flesh seemed to dance and to smile unlike in the inland where heavily placed they were stuck

In their lush dancing shapes, painted rocks made the wavering shoreline comparably stuck
Stolen, fossilized life from the dolmens and drumlins excited the flying and gliding loud voice of the gulls
Incessantly prattling they chatter, the birds, of the secret well hidden 'til now--that the ghost town has life
In the acres once desolate found by an artist are seen amidst rocks to be mountains of miles of green
Cliffs, crying edifices, swamps, chirruping bogs, pine groves, and buzzing, overgrown fields all in rhythm
So isolate, quietly, still keeping time without painfully, as the shore town, in time's influence punctually swept

The island perimeter, looping land circuit, with time is elliptically swept
And with the swirling, and flinging, and time-flying pull of the tide would have snatched it away from the land where it stuck
Would be flung from the continent into the sea by the speeding monotonous day-ages old rhythm
Leaving behind--this fantastically runaway island--in its wake in the sky the still, forever flying gulls
And spin Charybdically endlessly, strange aquatic counterpart of the sun in the sea as it floated its course in wet green
All this but pinning, a rock at its center, ensnaring in place, hidden in pines, is Dogtown's life

Forever apart yet essentially partaking of one local identity is Dogtown buzzing with life
Simply self reliant and defined as its own is the breath of the woods that, in Nor' East winds, to the harbor is swept
Where the ocean in moodiness angrily outbreaks breathing Dogtown's defiant woods air in the sea mist so green
So the tantrumy sea tangles people and boats and in its tides--but forever land's solid while to granite it's stuck
And in noticing this just one painter turned inland and sketched in the rocks and the brush and was seen by the seagulls
Those hurried and tidal and turbulent shores and his Dogtown, desserted, half-wild woods live in rhythm

What the painter had painted in seasonal swatches in west wind was writhing with the rhythm of life
And the noisy old gulls with the turns and the herons and sparrows enliven the air their wings have swept
Once stuck in the mud on the paths in the hills in Dogtown, the painter's rainboots had trudged where the foliage flows green

Photograph by Madeleine MacDougal