Blog Post / Fall 2016 / Issues / Poetry / Poetry 2016

Sestina for Solomon Grundy–Stephen Cloud

(after the nursery rhyme)





The midwife, watching for signs in the stars,

declares the time has come; it cannot be otherwise.

Neighbor folk fill the room with flowers,

and when at last the water

breaks they jerk the drunken father awake

and send him to buy blessings from the priest.






At the baptismal font the parish priest

recites the sacrament: “May Christ the morning star

guard this child sleeping and guide him waking.

May he know a life of grace and be wise

in God’s ways. By the Holy Spirit and by this water

may he persevere and flourish like a flower.”






Now a young man, he carries flowers

and meets his beloved before the beaming priest.

Solomon’s eyes are filled with water

as he recalls their garden walks beneath the stars.

“So shall you love one another always and all wise,”

the villagers sing, following in the couple’s wake.


Took ill




A summer’s day at the parish wakes.

Grundy strolls with wife and child among wildflowers,

never doubting the goodness of a God all-wise.

Joyful, he bows for a blessing from the priest.

That night, taken ill, he retches beneath the stars.

Shivering in bed, he cries out for water.







Now fevers wrack him. He gasps for water, more water,

his moans keeping neighbors awake.

He is flailing, thrashing at the thousand stars

bursting in his head. His wife strews flowers

and sends the boy to bring the priest.

Onlookers keen and wail, “Lord, let it be otherwise!”







The race is not to the swift, nor bread to the wise,

says the scripture. His lips reject the proffered water.

He is too far gone to hear the prayers of the priest.

The villagers are gathered for the wake,

drunk on ale perfumed with flowers

while Grundy’s soul wanders among the stars.






Let the wise beware and repent, the eulogizing priest declares,

for who numbers the stars? Who cares for the wildflowers?

Like the tumbling waters, all must follow in Grundy’s wake.

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