(a cycle of six sestinas)
Roy Herndon Smith

1 Sestina

Padma the Source, the mother of Time!—Salman Rushdie

“Use your words”—as if they’re tame, but words are wild
absences conflating-distinguishing all,
tumbles of thundering tranquility (you,
dear reader, other, lover, mother of time),
artifacts wailing, raging, syncopating,
galumphing (you falling between), smoothing space,

shimmering (you dappling me), enfolding space.
Sestinas are cobbled Frankenstein speech, wild
forms (you, synthesizing, play) syncopating
(you dally, then you sally forth to grab all
the) sibilantly stalled (necessary time
for memory) rhythms messing, meshing (you

making) trouble, serenity (making you);
serendipitous sestina’s a (your) space
for headlong falls in slick thickly muddy time
(you before before form and void, the vast wild
silences) constraining, holding—a womb; all
conjoins body-emptiness syncopating,

delaying, detonating (syncopating
imploding-exploding incarnate speech, you,
enfleshed sestina, eliding me, you, all);
words, charged particles, annihilate-make space;
rhythms rest in suddenly sheer, stripping wild
wind throwing leaves, dark into light, ending time;

erupting words-flesh, singular timeless time
(you, momentary peace of syncopating
perpetuity drive totality wild;
raw crabapple—skip the sugar—sour of you
fall-bite into my mouth), words full-filling space,
horizontal (you, lazy) at rest in all.

(You, me) we, quarks and universes and all,
monsters trundling with grace, with light, finding time,
stretching time, natural artifice of space
(you gather-throw galaxies), syncopating
first cry of pre-dawn bird endlessly new (you
dive into, cleave placidity of the wild

wide sea); creation is all syncopating,
a sestina making time with chaos (you
making me making you), these words, this space (wild

2 Peace

They will beat their swords into ploughshares . . . —Isaiah 2:4
Peace like a river, flowing forever. —Frank Burch Brown

Beat swords, plowshares, into piecemeal peace of wild
words cleaving, smoothing, waving, wakening all-
creating-all. I don’t plow, make, take, break you,
I don’t do to you; we do make, take, break time,
empty-filling, serenely syncopating,
rolling, roiling, hollowing, fathomless space.

Solitude with absent you is fecund space;
words-bodies-selves-universes fall from wild
emptiness; the uncanny syncopating
surf breaks, you break, on a far shore, on me, all;
away from each other, bodies rhyme in time;
lost flesh, lost nearness, the redolence of you,

still small “peace-like-a-river” ocean of you
not here, the ambient breath, scent, taste, of space;
you beyond, under my fingers tapping time,
voluptuous, tumultuous, tumbling wild
voids, waves of distant you rise and fall, and all
crashes over-through me in syncopating

silences, senseless shifts of syncopating
muted calls of far circling gulls; losing you
is finding you in inchoate source of all,
nothing cleaving flesh, words, medium of space,
delicate, carnivorous pauses, lines, wild
breaks of stillness, the madeleine of lost time—

each time a new revelation, just now time,
each repetition a new syncopating
stop-start of time, enjambments soaring in wild
infinitely desirable other—you,
over there, beyond the edges of sense-space;
yet here you are, breathing in, conflating all,

before subject-object, silken starless all;
cicadas singing, a cool night, making time,
“every-little-thing’s-gonna-be-all-right” space,
the slick touch of absences syncopating
grief with laughter, the fluidity of you;
we, flailing, flying, break spears, plows, into wild

this peace that passes all in syncopating
time—”it’s all right”; and everything swoons in you
opening the space lying between all—wild.

3 Absences

Nevertheless these are fundamental absences, struggling to get up and be off themselves.—John Ashbery

On my way someplace, I end, the wind is wild,
the walk stops in thrashing leaves, trees, and, through all
moving, nothing moves, not-scent of absent you,
infusing light, houses, shadows, fleeing time,
slow-resting in the womb of syncopating
lost beats, arhythmic shocks, holiness of space.

Beyond lamp’s warm white glow on window frame, space,
night’s black absence, four orange lights slanting wild;
memory tames them, “streetlights”; syncopating
sight stalls the rhythm, something eerie stalks all—
memory scrambles, empties—some other time
pressing unknown incarnation—is it you?

You are not here, not now, and yet, in “not,” you
are, not night, white, lights, stars, the negative space
of words, metaphors, memory making time
or not, emptiness or not, nothing not wild;
in shifting, storming dust to dust, you are all;
the way to you is loss, lost syncopating

movements, stops, and memory’s syncopating
midnight dance with the daylight distance of you,
beating in leaves, trees, houses, shadows, scents, all
mourning and not, consummating and not, space
consecrated as absence, the unclean wild
weird keening of enchanted everyday time.

Yesterday evening (memory makes the time),
west sky and, to the east, baby blue and you,
away in the deepening darkening space
(imagination making it now), and all

are here; distance is the medium of all
touching all, absence, the medium of time
binding then to now, there to here, space to space,
making every moment a syncopating
endless place for me to find an end in you,
a beginning in you, in the serene wild

green grown all in faded blue syncopating
dropped lost time dragging delaying beat of you,
space of far you blazing, making morning wild.

4 Syncopating

Mother of roots or father of diamonds,
Look: I am nothing.
I do not even have ashes to rub into my eyes.
—James Wright

Repetition’s difference whistling a wild
tune, gamboling on earth’s “old fire” under all-
blinding noon calcium clouds, springing-free you,
“far and wee” balloons, drifting up, away, time
dissolving in “mud-luscious” syncopating
elegantly “goat-footed” slipping just-space,

“James-James-Morrison-Morrison-Weather’” space;
“little lame balloonman,” “G. du P.,” skips wild
in uneasily blissful syncopating
“spiraling . . . [i]n weeds,” in gaping once-more all
“will be forgotten”; still, the “Mother [of time]
of roots,” “in a golden gown,” remembers you,

“only three,” “took great care of” her. She took you,
jumping in puddles, to the far “edge of space,”
where, under ashes catching voids, you stopped time
until mud returned to dust under the wild
grey sky; you formed the dust into piles, breathed all
nothing in, blew it out in syncopating

gusts of gaps, dust to dust; in syncopating
diffrent reptitions; she, The Mother, whom you
followed, followed, took great care of, you and all
her “offsprinkles” (more downpours flash-flooding space);
she learned to hallow weeds, repediftions, wild
replications-variations forming time.

Decades later, you mistook calcified time,
repdiffrent grlound sky “drownded,” syncopating
ashes grinding, blinding, you forgot the wild
child-mother-Mother-children-of-roots b’you
‘n “J. J. M. M.,” repdifsucklintions space.
No matter, forgetting makes memory all

gone in “a golden gown . . . to the end of” all.
“Oh Mary, don’t you weep . . . mourn . . . the fire next time”
burns grey sky blue big banging rainbow arced space.
Oh Mary, death’s just reptions syncopating
“diff . . . rence which makes a diff . . . rence,” matter-life-you
uneasily “missing the [straying, lost, wild]

soul” fangling, dangling, in all. Syncopating
time strikes “tall ashes of loneliness,” you,
down, into space you, whistling, make luscious—wild.

5 Mother

. . . in the mother’s body [one] knows the universe . . . —Jewish saying

Before I, you, before sole you, mother-wild-
“world in a grain of sand,” the beating of time,
enchanting, terrifying, syncopating
“this leaving-out business,” the effects of space.

I awoke this morning to you filling space,
but, now, at a distance, sensations, still wild,
are mild, or, at least, milder; syncopating
delays the impact just enough for it all—
the deliciously delicate touch of time,
the rhythm of lost and found, the whiff of you,

or, perhaps, the wafting memory of you—
the difference is not definitive—space
to drift into vastness, the mind into time.
At rest in not single, not double, but wild
vision—nothing itself—synecdochic all
embeds before-you-me in syncopating

tohu wa bohu before syncopating
you before nothing becomes being and you;
the cosmos is this womb, the mother of all,
memory is presence making absence space
for birthingdying youmeworld wordywild
creationannihilation this one time.

God expostulating with chaos makes time.
Love is not taking sides, but syncopating
differences in repetitions run wild,
diction in contradiction, neardistant you,
cicadas’ chirring-stilling waves filling space;
machines whirring-stopping on beyond it all;

formless-forming morning chorus of it all,
restless resistance of momentary time,
linger-slip slider in surreptitious space,
memory fitting-making-syncopating
this instant a crescendo of close-far you;
“O for a thousand tongues to sing” your (earth’s) wild

all-out-of-nothing praise of syncopating
(O ye gods and little fishes!) time—you, You,
laughing-weeping freeing space to be God, wild.

6 Civilization

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
—William Butler Yeats

Civilization’s no slouch, it devours wild
beasts, the innocent and the guilty, and all
else with ferocious efficiency, and you
suffer its machinery splintering time.
You wait for the breaks in the syncopating
gyrations, you twirl out of its bloodless space.

Clinging to a dirty pole, you clear a space
to dwell, just this moment, in the empty wild,
between not bumping bodies syncopating
(bumping, “Sorry”). Civilization is all
(only seemingly cleaned up) washed up, a time
of centers bumping into, not holding, you.

Centers can’t hold anything, for sure not you,
like a falcon disappearing into space,
on a subway in Brooklyn. If you steal time,
this moment, for a second birth, in a wild
silent cry, still between bodies, into all
weeping, laughing; if I, in syncopating

Staten-Island absence, a syncopating
falconer collapsing loss, fail to hear you,
your muteness cleaving the ocean between all
and all, fields of blood and love, and space and space;
if, seeking a linguistic taming of wild
grief and joy, I wrap words around you and time,

and things fall apart, you fall apart, and time
dins—lost beats, days, nights, touches syncopating,
shattering words, stinging shards in old wounds—wild
ecstasies, blood-dimmed waves, catch you up, throw you
between bodies embracing, butchering space—
I will flow under tangled-tonguing and find all

of you, thrummed sea of civilized-and-not all,
beating, losing, smoothing metronomic time,
cultivating artifice of abstract space,
dissolving oppositions syncopating
nature-culture, divine mundaneness of you,
breathing near and far, like Miles’ horn wailing wild

into the infinite all, syncopating
another time, a lazy time, stretching you
through space of civilization flying wild.