I wrote this poem when I was taking a class in poetic forms from Carolyn Wright. This is a sestina, a 12th century form that uses six-line stanzas, with six pre-chosen words to end each line. The line-ending words change position in a specific order in each stanza; after six 6-line stanzas, there’s a final 3-line send off that uses all six words.
I had been obsessing over what to write about, which six words to use, and I was stumped. I was driving the shuttle then, and I went into a QFC in Bellevue to get coffee. As I was putting cream and cinnamon in my coffee (Starbuck’s dark roast is okay, but Pike has to be heavily doctored), I decided I’d use the model names of six cars in the parking lot as I walked back to the van. They were:
I think the “si” is a sub-model of the Honda Civic, but the Civic nameplate had fallen off. In the poem, “si” used as Spanish for “yes”, as Mount Si (in the Cascades near Seattle, pronounced “sigh”), and as “SI”, the standard abbreviation for Sports Illustrated. I wrote it around the time of the World Cup, inspired by goalie superstar Hope Solo. The broad biographical outlines are correct (career, father, Richland), everything else is–well, poetry.
Hope’s stock has fallen since then, but that’s my fault. Celebrities I praise fall, ones I criticize get canonized (Princess Diana). Anyway, an interesting exercise in randomness.
Sestina for Hope Solo
Before they knock, she opens the door, says “Si”,
steps into the moonlight with her midwife’s bag, limited
English, and the lunar authority of fierce focus.
A room painted with moans: “She will need bravada.”
They wonder: mother or child? Though cavalier
in her motions, as if fixing an old Mustang
up on blocks, still she brings a new mustang
kicking into the world– “Easy, no—powerful, si.”
The birth, or the girl? Her homeless father, Vietnam cavalier,
somewhere captures a bridge for the night. Limited
means–Mom fends off bills with bravada
as much as cash, but she keeps her focus
on her little huntress, her piece of moon. Pull focus
to high school, where she kicks like a mustang,
takes the soccer team to State while in an Olds Bravada,
her best friend Monica gets knocked up, drops out. “Si,
but he loves me.” Hope keeps her world limited
to a 70 centimeter sphere, and if it seems cavalier
the way she leaves Richland in her dust, well she’s a cavalier
by blood. College: she takes a defensive crouch, her sole focus
the threshold of a net. Finds her father’s similar limited
threshold beneath a bridge, the 60’s song “Mustang
Sally” blasting from his tent. Her runs up Mount Si
barely give her the leg strength to enter. But bravada
isn’t needed here, there’s humor and truth; not bravada
but mac and cheese and stories shared, one cavalier
to another. “Your daughter is very beautiful, si?”
–horny Ramon next door, they laugh him away, their focus
only for each other. But the roar and smoke of a Mustang
gunning it under the bridge reminds them time’s limited;
smoke clears, it’s years later, and she knows life’s limited–
he’s dead, and no gold medal, no bravada
can cool the sting. The moon-led mustang
wanders China to Germany, itinerant cavalier,
battle-scarred warrior, world’s best, the focus
of interviews and photo spreads in SI–
and yes, her limited father loved her, the old cavalier,
but Monica’s Bravada is up on blocks, so give the living your focus.
This mustang brings the Cup home to mom–easy, no–powerful, si.