Mark J. Mitchell

Sestina of Misplaced Time
For Diana and Frank

A reluctant bell rings, breaking
cool air with a hard, high sound,
calling dusty memories to bright day.
Griefs parade along, one by one,
stinging her with time’s cold bite.
She’s forced to live it all again:

No song softens griefs that rise again
when her eyes twist a new way, breaking
unstable sight. They collect small bites
of her overstretched mind, with sounds
of warning bells. She’d like just one
hour of a long, baffling day

to be soft as fresh laundry. A holiday
from living through cracked scenes again.
Sometimes, she’ll try to grab just one
but eyes close too tight, breaking
a bell into fragments of soundless
glass. They scratch her soul like gnat bites.

Seconds, minutes, might feel cool as a bite
of new fruit, they can’t be kept all day.
An oven timer bell rings, with a tinny sound,
then all her thoughts get lost again.
She’s in some other time. Faces break
through but she can’t name anyone.

She knows she remembers. She was someone
else – not that long ago. Then something bit
her mind. She didn’t feel any sharp break,
but she’s certain there was a certain day.
She knows she won’t find it again.
It’s faded as a church bell’s falling sound.

She prays for a moment when sounds
don’t send her back to hazed childhood days
or the bells from her second wedding. That kiss – again –
might be nice. Or the car where love bites
were new. She wants tenderness. Just one
soft moment she could keep without breaking

into tears. Time bites her with loose sounds,
like cracked bells. Her days fall from one
broken grief to another. Again. Again. Again….

Mark J. Mitchell’s latest novel, The Magic War is published by Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work has appeared in several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. Three of his chapbooks— Three Visitors, Lent, 1999, and Artifacts and Relics—are available. He lives with his wife, the activist Joan Juster and makes a living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco.