Change Ringing — A Sestina by Patrice S. Nolan


With ordained certainty the notes change,
scale the tower with incessant ringing,
shatter all bird song in the crowded air.
The sally dips and rises, the practiced dance of hands
glad to ring true the triples, a eulogy
for sorrow, these assassins of silence.

For who can bear the violent clamor of silence,
the suspense, the suspension of inevitable change?
Better to compose now some memory-dappled eulogy,
wet with teary quavers, with palms red from ringing,
flung from the steeple to the floor, the very heart in our hands
and send our Ave’s to whom? To the air.

The bells are cooled by a bejeweled winter air.
Snowfall whispers, requires unjust silence,
slices through the heart’s longing and simply hands
over hopes and dreams like so much loose change,
dropped in the red kettle of desperation. Ringing.
Calling. The price of a dime-store eulogy.

But the bells’ toll deposes, post-pones our eulogy
and knits a white shroud of the very air
as if to weave and warp the snow with its ringing
and capture the likeness of eternal silence
and mock it with the pattern and pull of each new change
and smother the quiet with our milk-gloved hands. 

We become the clockwork. With the ticking of our hands
we mark the infallible math of our yearning, turned eulogy,
turned homage to the very quiet we pretend to kill but only change.
See now, how the sound waves distort the air.
They paint a shadow the size and shape of the banished silence
and prove the madness of our method ringing.

What remains when we stop our ringing,
when the destined permutations quiet our hands?
We were giddy fools to think we could crush the silence.
It is immortal. It swallows our volley and spits our eulogy
with a hiss. Bronze mouths gape to drink the crystal air.
And who were we to think we could make a case for change?

Lover, leave off this ringing. Life needs no eulogy.
Let us find a better use for hands, for this still, still air.
Our beating hearts insist that the silence change.

© 2020 Patrice Nolan


Follow Patrice

Patrice Nolan has lived her entire life in southeast Michigan and her outlook is informed by a love of lake water, the thrum of industry, and the optimistic belief that while people are often foolish, they essentially mean well. She has been assembling words since she was allowed to use sharp pencils and earns her keep as a freelance writer in the marketing/communications field. Her poetry has been published in local anthologies and in Mezzo Cammin, June 2018. She has actively participated in a workshop run by Michigan poets and supports local poetry month activities and readings. She is an enthusiast of the performing arts and reviews theatre in the greater Detroit area. Patrice is currently working on a collection of poems inspired by machine learning: Listening to the Wisdom of Machines. Her personal motto is: There’s a lot to be said for brevity.


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