A Conversation About Daughters by John Newson

A Conversation About Daughters

The white plastic bag still clings to the tree,
contorted by two years’ of winds
and traffic, turned by the air movement
of trucks and buses. Now it hangs
like the empire line flower girl dress
I haven’t started making for my daughter.

She tells me that she had a daughter
once, a branch snapped from the family tree.
My mouth dries up, I have no redress,
no response. The thought of it winds
me, knocks the air from my lungs. Silence hangs
like the mists of our breaths. The movement

of the bag catches my eye, its movement
is a dance, like the sway of my daughter
as she swings to Fats Waller; her hair hangs
across her face, the branches of a willow tree,
and I cannot help but smile as she winds
the bobbin up or laughs at the twirl of her dress.

She tells me that her daughter liked to dress
in white, belonged to a movement
that intended to save the world; The Winds
of Change. She says her daughter
was as strong as an oak tree.
I notice that her head hangs

the way my daughter’s hangs
when she is told she cannot dress
as Spider-Girl for church. The tree
is stronger than the sapling, but its movement
is less – I wonder if her daughter
bent too far in the strong winds.

As the bus arrives the plastic bag winds
itself around the branch, hangs
tangled in itself. She says her daughter
hanged herself in a white dress
that fluttered in the breeze, the only movement
save for the apples dropping from the tree.

by John Newson

Editor’s Note: Although this sestina lacks the traditional closing three lines, the repetition throughout is enough to support the emotional framework of the narrative. Form should always serve the heart of the poem rather than itself.

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