Typing Backwards (Sestina)

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Typing Backwards (Sestina)

Diana Senechal

Now is the time to talk. I don’t mean
dipping my bread into your clipped glyphs
and gobbling like a tramp, or stirring shock
and awe into our first long-distance tea.
I mean the simple conference. The back
and forth that all the world has come to miss.

What I have never known, how can I miss?
Without matter, how can I find a mean?
I too have walked my mind and fingers back
to our first meeting, where your hymnous glyphs
woke me from ancient sleep. Instead of tea,
I drank the beauty of the limpid shock.

Later, I only partly meant to shock
you and others; most of that swing-and-miss
came from my gait. A sitting down for tea
would have made you and me a bit less mean.
Instead I racked my mind over my glyphs,
wishing I could reshape them, roll them back

across the border. Yet the taking back
would be just a mirage. My fingers shock
the keys, and they shock back; the stoic glyphs
have long known these erasures. “You will miss
our mark,” they say. But cuts mark too (I mean
the million times I backspaced on a T).

You think I’m playing with infinity?
Last year, maybe. Not now. No going back
to that old cant. Sometimes I was a mean
mortality protester. I would shock
the rosy wellness-hawkers with my mis-
creant letters, my ever-stretching glyphs.

Now it’s all one. The river thrums my glyphs
into the easelessness. A spill of tea
lifts ink from the old diaries. I miss
missing itself, the feeling, far far back
in the blue past, that words of truth and shock
would become flesh. At least conjure your mien.

Now I see what I missed: your cryptic glyph
speaks its own mean. “To keep your dignity,
hold something back.” So I delete the shock.

 

I wrote this sestina over the past week and completed it this morning.

Leave a comment

4 Comments

  1. Claudia

     /  March 24, 2020

    Thank you for recovering things we didn’t know had slipped away, my dear friend.

    Reply
  2. Judith Croke

     /  March 27, 2020

    Congratulations on completing the purchase of your new apartment! Wish you happy times and memories in your new home! Please keep posting about life in Szolnok as our family will miss our usual Easter break in the town. We will miss the lovely spring time walks along the river .My boys will miss their bike rides and fun Time at the sad spa… who knows when will get home to Szolnok again.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Judith. I hope that you will be able to come home to Szolnok before long. I will keep posting about life here.

      Reply

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     

    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

  • INTERVIEWS AND TALKS

    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.
     

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.

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    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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