Sestina for a Batterer (March) by Edie Rhoads

Perhaps when you came across me I was a fist
finally coming open. A foal in new snow.
A lit stove, my heart unclenching hot embers
as you looked on, cold like a scientist.
Perhaps because you were there, I mistook your kiss
for a castle.
I came upon a castle
once unexpectedly, in fog. Joint in my fist
I watched the cows at pasture kiss
fodder. The rain came thick as snow.
I was completely lost. Like a scientist
I observed my own loneliness. Embers
like this one rise up in me, embers
glow while I lie awake beside my heart’s castle.
Watching her breath is a perfect science.
Next to her star of trust I’m a fist
still. A rope full of knots, but snow
falls across me in sleep, kissing
tears, cooling hot scars. I know my kisses—
flint and tinder—could ignite embers
for warmth, not arson. One day they will. It’s snowing
in the Old North End, castling
trash cans and parked cars, filling fists
of trees with nests of lace. Winter’s science.
Today I’ll deny your existence, myth. Scientists
do it all the time. The lips that kissed
your lies will burn unhurt. What’s that in your fist?
Lipstick? Or maybe it’s an ember.
Fuck you. You’ve touched too much fire. Yes, castles
were ruled by tyrants once but in all this snow
there is no master, only snow.
Also, I want to say that forgiveness is not a science.
It cannot be forced. In chess, castling
is the only moment two may move as one. Rook kisses
King as they pass. But that’s not love, it’s a game. Embers
and tempers flare. Here we are again. Up go the fists.
Now I kiss snow.
Science stokes embers
inside fist castles.
Edie Rhoads earned an MFA in poetry from New York University, where she was a New York Times Teaching Fellow. Rhoads’s poems have appeared in such publications as Post Road, Blackbird, The Salon, and Indiana Review. Her first book, The Day Bat, was published in 2011 by Honeybee Press.