Sestina: Baptism by Anjali Nelson

Sestina: Baptism

She dreams always darkly in her sleep
of the still forest and green
the heaviness of water
filled with lucid drowning leaves
till her hands are crucibles that clench, open:
she shivers letting go the branch.

It isn’t troublesome to choose which branch
to take, what path towards easy sleep
will leave her least exposed, open;
as lips and air turn heavy green
she’ll choose contritely, blindly, leave
ripples, a trail of foam in water

till the lately buoyant, hesitating water
sings out, communing with the branch
consuming everything it leaves
behind in her anxious, winter-wounded sleep
pulling and pushing her on despite the green
of shadows, clouds brazenly split open

She doesn’t watch or want her eyes to open
to the sting of unknown festive water
but her fingers hunger towards the green
sharpness, cold, the slashing of a branch
and she contracts, coils deep inside her sleep
unfurls alongs the highest warmest leaves

Or are they lowest? She no longer leaves
that distinction writ in stone; strange eyes open
and close; regrets ferment through her sleep
lure her under darker turgid waters –
she’s reached a sudden turning, brazen branch
through the luminous and stately green

There is so much pulse and possibility, green
scarabs, time and chance; what will she leave
if she rips herself away, a sickened branch
thrust towards a distant sky, reviled, open
to doubt and silence, curtain falls of water
Wondering who awakes, which one’s asleep?

Asleep she falls headlong into the green
and golden water, strewn with light and leaves
Her hands open to grasp the branch, the sky.

© 2017 Anjali Nelson


Follow Anjali


I am Anjali Bhapkar Nelson, a life-long wordaholic, practicing mostly poetry in various forms and combinations, along with hybrid prose/poetry work and longer pieces. I took a long vacation from writing “publicly” during the decades that I stayed at home with children. I am back in writing communities now and loving the rebirth. Lately I am intrigued by transformational work, the interplay between poem, context, reader response and re-creation. I love the sestina format for its resonance and echo effects.


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