July 2014 Sestinas
Gretchen Fletcher’s poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including upstreet, Chattahoochee Review, Inkwell, and The Mid-American Poetry Review. She won the Poetry Society of America’s Bright Lights, Big Verse competition and was projected on the Jumbotron as she read her poem in Times Square. Her chapbooks, That Severed Cord and The Scent of Oranges, were published by Finishing Line Press, and one of her poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Sharing Stories at the Guadalajara Grill
They’ve been here forever – the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
that have beckoned centuries of strangers
to come and learn their ancient stories.
In campers, buses, trucks they’ve come down the highway
that leads in and out of Taos,
the town O'Keefe loved for its light.
Low humidity creates that certain light.
Only puffs of moisture float above the mountains,
bringing occasional relief of rain to Taos,
cooling off the natives and the strangers
who come down the highway
carrying with them their own stories.
The mountains seem to tower many stories
above the town famous for its light
which has only one highway
leading in and out across the barrier mountains
that kept early tribes – the Tewas – strangers
to their neighboring Tiwas in Taos.
Now to this town, Taos,
writers come to share their stories
with anyone who’ll listen, even strangers
or painters who come for the light
they try to capture as it colors the mountains,
their art, one means of getting high. Way
across the country, each via a different highway,
have come three strangers to each other and to Taos,
writers from two coasts and another range of mountains,
to sit at the Guadalajara Grill and write their stories
as the setting sun brings an end to the day’s light.
They met as strangers,
but it is not as strangers
they sit now beside the highway
in the glow of Budweiser’s neon light
on the window of the Grill outside Taos
and create their stories
as the sun sinks behind the mountains.
Under the Sangre de Cristo Mountains the strangers
go down the story highways they create
inspired by the light that makes Taos famous.
The images run as off a movie reel,
flashing forever pictures of the past
onto the screen of my memory.
We go on and on without end,
my father and I, casting our lines
in an ever-flickering scene.
But now my father’s nowhere to be seen.
I still can’t believe his death is real.
My heart pours out lines and lines
of poetry about our fishing in the past,
those times I thought would never end
that now exist only as memory.
I go back often to one of those memories.
I see it just like a motion picture scene
I want to watch till the very end
to see if what I remember was real
and not just some imagined past
with actors saying rehearsed lines.
I’ll always remember those last few lines
that ring still in my memory.
The film gets stuck here. I can’t get past
the ever-repeated hospital bed scene.
“I love you,” I said. “I really
do.” “I love you too.” That was the end.
What a way for our fishing trips to end.
No advice about how to keep tight lines
or how to cast and set a spinning reel.
Now I follow his directions from memory,
and try to recall those tricks I’d often seen
him do, like stringing hooks and sinkers, in the past.
A lot of years have passed
and pity for fish has brought my angling to an end.
I no longer want to be part of the scene
on a dock, unhooking fish from lines,
releasing them to sure death, a memory
of what seems cruel now that I think about it, really.
I don’t think you can go back to live the past and keep reciting lines
in hopes the present has no end. My father lives - but just as memory.
I now release him from the scene we kept repeating as off a movie reel.
Revolutionary War Battles
Lexington farmers took their muskets down
from above mantels, obeying the order
to be ready in a minute. Across the earth
the call resounded, “Hold your fire
till they shoot first. Here on our green we'll stand
and see which way the Redcoats turn.”
And then it was the town of Concord's turn
to face the British soldiers down
at their crude bridge. Today a statue stands
erected there by a committee's order
to commemorate the musket-fired
shot heard 'round the earth.
All night on Breed's Hill they dug earth-
works, exhausted after digging, taking turns
to warm themselves beside the fire.
At last behind redoubts they hunkered down
watching for the whites of Redcoats' eyes, as was the order.
Defeated, they moved to Bunker Hill to take their stand.
After Christmas revelry, the enemy could hardly stand.
When soldiers from the other end of the earth
had lost their usual Germanic sense of law and order
Washington saw it was his turn
to beat the mercenary Hessians hands-down
by crossing the icy Delaware and letting loose his fire.
Franklin had been sent to France to fire
up their support, but they refused to take a stand
unwilling to back the Patriots who were down.
But at Saratoga the losers dug in the earth.
This is the battle where the tables turned
and the French Navy entered the war to bring order.
Washington heard the British plan and issued the order
to surround him on that peninsula not even needing to fire.
No matter which way Cornwallis turned -
Patriots on land, French in the Bay - he knew he couldn't stand
so on the battle-scarred Yorktown earth
in defeat the British laid their weapons down.
The old order could no longer stand.
A new fire now spread across the earth
as the world turned upside down.