Scarlett Peterson

Sestina for my father and his five (living) children

Tonight I light a candle for my father’s
living children, all of us born red,
owning nothing, no home or land 
to return to. We learned hound-love, 
the sharpening of tooth and talon
so as to be ready; this brute wisdom

his only legacy, this brute wisdom
our inheritance. Our father
whose absence is a piercing-talon
in the palm, whose red blood
pounds through us, hounding
our bodies. Whose hands land

on me in dreams, landless
worlds which lack the wisdom
of safety, the half-hound
sleeping at my feet. Our father
who named me for the color red
and his favorite cigar. A talon

in the throat with each signing, a talon-tipped
memory of the shared name which lands
on every important page. Red
like a country folding in on itself. Sophia (wisdom),
my youngest sister, born last to our father.
Connor, his first son named for the hound— 

small-framed—I  watched the hound
whither when my father stole him, talon-thin
from his mother. Our selfish father,
who named his second daughter Tara for holy land 
perhaps already bearing the wisdom
that he’d live a life unpredictable, violent-red.

My name-sake: that violence, that regret-red
double-syllable of failure. His lost hound,
all of his lost children, no wisdom,
nothing passed on to the second-son, Talon,
who looks so much like him. No knowledge of the land
any of us live on, our never-gone, unforgettable father.

Always keeping us at a red distance, one talon
always hound-scent near us, no safety in any land,
we bear the pressing wisdom of our come-back-and-find-you father.

link to video 

Scarlett Peterson is poet, essayist, and lesbian. She is currently working on her PhD at Georgia State University. She received her MFA at Georgia College. Her work can be found in Moon City Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Peculiar, Pidgeonholes, Gargoyle Magazine, Ponder Review, Madcap Review, Counterclock Journal, The Shore, Poetry Online, Skink Beat Review,  Eunoia Review, Josephine Quarterly, and more.