Sestina for Eva: by Adina Richman

Eva is like a crane

Regal, erect, a flag leaning into the wind

Wrapped warm in snow feathers

Eager eyes chasing gold sparks on waves

Charting flight paths in a ceramic sky, dodging the clouds

Seeking patterns in swirls and lines

Seeking pattern’s swirls and lines, she finds the beauty in a print.

Her fingers etch delicate bones, the one-legged stance of a crane

on the clay skin of a ceramic tile, the moment before the crane swoops into flight, aiming at clouds.

She won’t stop, until, exhausted, she droops, a flag without a wind.

Behind closed lids, her eyes chase the bird plunging from the sky, spotting something gold, far beneath the waves.

The couch has become an island, with pebble pill beaches and jagged pillow peaks, mountains of feathers.

As cells split and Poison Root blooms, Eva, wrapped in a snow white sweater,

watches the pattern of chemicals swirling, coursing down the PICC line.

Her bird eyes stop the nurse. She smiles, tries to wave, imagining her hand not limp and pale, but cutting air high above, remembering, beyond the spires of La Sagrada Familia, swinging free, dropping bits of heaven and earth, flocks of construction cranes.

Regal still, leaning back, resting her bald head in a panda-eared hat, she is worn, weary, but unflagging.

She reads words on hospital charts and watches the swirl in a ceramic teacup, imagining how it would feel to fly beyond the clouds.

When she tells me the cancer’s everywhere, my eyes cloud.

Eva wraps me tightly in her wings. I feel each white feather.

We’re in the backyard, a clear day with a silver wind

She shows me the garden planted by loving friends; neat rows, paths and lines.

In the window, a curtain of one thousand origami cranes.

“How can I thank them for all of this? It’s too much, there’s no way…” Her voice is echoing waves.

Later: “My doctor’s from China. Ah, their wood block prints: the carving, precision, the detail in a wave!

Dr. Chen’s like that – makes me think about things, like a mountain peak breaking through a cloud.

On her wrist she has a tattoo, a symbol of luck, longevity – a red-headed crane.

I like that. I like them all here. Interesting people, so kind, supportive…” her voice flutters, feathers.

“Shame you have to be sick to be here. It’s different in China. So many people! They wait in lines that stretch for miles! The anger, desperation! A man stabbed a doctor, and the queues still twist and wind…”

In the garden, a fading day with a silver wind.

“I know you,” she says, and the words are gold sparks, floating on dark waves.

I think about rows and paths, patterns etched, and radical swirls, out of control. I think about our lines –

How some things – no matter how clear, hoped for, inevitable – blur; raindrops lost in a cloud.

A crane, graceful and strong, is shot as it stands one-legged in a marsh, hot blood on snow feathers,

and the print is ruined, the line flattens, the prayer flags fray, the pattern                            explodes.

As the world spirals and waves roil to rail at clouds

An arrow slices the wind and strikes deep, nested up to the feathers

Her bird eyes are already in flight. I follow their line. I see gold sparks of sun, as my head cranes ever upward.


copyright 2013 Adina Richman, all rights reserved

To hear more poems by Adina Richman, click HERE.


By bonniemcclellan

Mother, poet, american ex-pat from Texas living in Northern Italy.


  1. Bravo! I know how difficult it is to write a sestina that flows naturally and in which the form feels like the inevitable choice. You’ve made some clever judgements about flexibility and the poem is moving and compelling! Love it.

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