originally published in Poetry Center of Chicago 16 (2010), and then Overpass (Misty Publications, 2012)


Sestina, tonight’s the night I push you off the overpass.

I’m done with your six kinds of hell.  Your demanding sky,

your French complications, your clouds in my happy wagon,

your forty-two words for rain, your pearl-handled gun,

this concrete and asphalt that leap-frogs the low ground

locals call the Bottom, dirt cursed with industry and blood.


I’m done with your sixes and sevens, the pressure of blood

at the thirty-nine sutures pinning us to this long overpass

you keep calling me to, far above the patchy ground

that only we who grew up here could think deserves a sky,

any sky, even this one with its petro stink.  I too have a gun,

this twelve-gauge I’m pulling loaded from my buckshot wagon.


May your pieces make a smart pattern.  May the dead wagon

carry a vacuum and glue.  If there are forty-two words for hell,

I expect thirty-nine of them to be you.  You need a real gun,

Sestina, my dirt under your nails, the rough of this overpass

for texture, the heft of a gunite hose shooting two-up at the sky

to make a holy road for rich pilgrims heading for better ground,


which means rolling or manicured or ode-worthy, any ground

but this petro dirt you call me back to with talk of the wagon

that will save you.  I’d do the Crazy Wing through a bad sky

if I thought I had anything new for you and your stale blood,

your long form, the way your returns wrap this overpass,

Sestina, in the same old sixes and sevens.  Better someone gun


you down than endure one more round of blanks from the gun

you pull from your obvious garter.  Better the hard ground

meet you falling than I waste my love from this overpass

on your history, the stretch marks you earned on the art wagon.

Bottom needs steel, slaughterhouses, freight trains bringing blood

and thump of flesh on flesh to make its rough song, one part sky


to five parts slag and spill, glorious smokestacks praising the sky,

canals, and river, a round of voices joining as I lift my shotgun

and new ashes settle all over this Bottom I love like blood.

Time for us to go, Sestina, double-pumped to sky and ground,

me to open fields, where I’ll whistle past the dead wagon,

and you to your forty-two words for life after overpass.


We promise to curse the sky.  We deliver our ends to the ground.

We’re loaded on the meat wagon.  We love the noise of the gun.

Here is the blood we love.  Here is where we leave the overpass.




Photo By: Randy Pertiet