SESTINA: SNOW ANGEL by Saramanda Swigart

Walking in Queens, I stop, make a snow angel
in a quiet lawn, flakes coiling like crystal—
Above my head trembles a black bough
I start: from the house, an eruption of singing
two girls, a mother, a father with a cognac
this yard, I see, belongs to a family

I’m outside in the dark, concocting a family,
in the window two girls dressed up like angels
school pageant costumes, mother pouring cognac,
a lush amber river, in a snifter of crystal
she smiles at the girls in their reverie of singing
overhead a snarling wind strains the bough

Snow sprays down from the bough
on my wet city coat, an old gift from my family
cars murmur on the beltway, singing
the loneliest song: there aren’t any angels
up rise swirling white eddies of crystal
and my mouth’s dry for that cognac

Against the cold, just a sip of that cognac
to help me join, from under this bough,
four voices rising, ringing like crystal
to be, for a moment, part of the family
wrap me up in the warmth of the angels
all four so serious, lost in their singing

The wind’s so intense it sends my cheeks singing
My body burns cold like the first sip of cognac
and my desire is like the black wings of angels
creaking, creaking, creaking the bough
now my heart pangs for a family
that shield against wind, a lattice of crystal

Snow stops: quiet falls, cold as crystal
for the girls have stopped singing
on the way to the subway—all the houses have families
sky strewn with stars the color of cognac
peering out through the boughs
there aren’t any angels—

The heart is fragile as crystal, acrid as cognac
The heart sings its small song, takes its small bow
Left behind—the family that kept my snow angel


Saramanda Swigart
Saramanda Swigart has an MFA from Columbia University, with a supplementary degree in literary translation. Her short work and poetry have appeared in Oxford Magazine, Superstition Review, The Alembic, Fogged Clarity, Saranac Review, Border Crossing, and Euphony. She lives in San Francisco and teaches at City College of San Francisco.

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