Jan Dean

Margarita's Sestina

Mena Creek, via Innisfail 1935

Still, I often wake disoriented, wondering why I came
but there’s so much work, worry can’t last long.
In the past ten years I’ve seen enough sugarcane
for many lifetimes. José bought this land as virgin scrub
and says it’s scrub all right, resistant as a virgin.
Back in Catalonia I knew battles and rumours of war.

Here, it’s constant combat and I learned to claw
my way up forty-seven steps without shame
dragging bags of river sand, vital (for us as the verge in-
to green) to cement the stones of a cottage, our place to belong
while we made the castle with stone balconies, the hub
of his dream. For these endeavours, who could blame

me: Now we have babies; a prince, princess and some fame
hereabouts, things I never foresaw
          or wanted in a country so alien? I am a grub
in a cathedral, but in the eyes of God a grub can claim
          its sense of rightness and however long
my trial, leaves grow with holes like ones that pierced the Blessed Virgin.

At Mena Creek, through sweet surge of green, trees burgeon
          beyond belief, none are lame.
Some grow so high they block the sky. Long
is their memory. A pleated leaf, mandala-shaped, makes war
on itself, rips at its seams; unlike the leaves in Spain.
Kangaroos climb trees along with vines, members of a bizarre club.

Often, birds near the waterfall make more hubbub
than too many Basque flautists vying to woo a virgin.
José will harness the water’s power and light up the nearby town. It’s a shame
my sister missed out, but I wouldn’t swap my role for hers on the swishest lane
in Madrid: Fiesta could never surpass the things I need and adore.
          I have José and the children, long

may we reign. In Spain, saeta is a sacred song
          an arrow of praise. And here’s the rub:
When you find your purpose, nothing is a chore.
The arrow makes a direct hit at the heart of the Blessed Virgin.
          My friends back there believe I am insane
but I focus on lacy fronds or giant butterflies and cherish my gain.

For José and me there’s no combat, we acquiese despite the hubbub
the tumble and rough. Such belief, I never foresaw.
Our goal has changed; preserving the forest transcends any castle or sugarcane.