Sestina for a Post-Tropical Storm

by Kateri Kosek 

I wanted a hurricane
and I got one. Wanted to learn about mass,
about what flies up, and what gets left
behind. The plovers hunched on the beach, bedding
down in seaweed. Heavy wooden chairs on the decks of sea-
side cottages. It’s not what you think. Hundreds of terns

burst bayside like white confetti. I watch you turn
in your sleep; a sandpiper preen in pelting rain. A hurricane
is a lesson in letting go. Matthew fizzling out at sea.
Provincetown on a Saturday night, October, a mass
of people and bikes, even now. We pile the bed
with blankets. The first night, just rain. It lifts

you from sleep, it settles in. The terns lift
all at once like white confetti, then all at once return
to where they started. They do this again and again. To bed
down not in their nature. The hurricane
sea is warm, a thing to feed on. In binoculars, a blurry mass
of seabirds, light and dark forms streaking, the sea

a highway. Drenched, I can barely see.
I lean into wind that blasts the beach, nearly lifts
me up. The forecast calls this a post-tropical mass,
as if a word makes all the difference, as if we can turn
from during to after, from hurricane to not-hurricane
without blinking. Birds settling on the oyster beds.

The ocean a drug, prying out embedded
pain. Second night, we can’t walk a straight line. The sea
winds topple heavy wooden chairs—call it a tropical storm,
let’s call it what it is—and toss them to the sand, lift
what’s not tied down. I return
for more, I scatter. I amass

resilience. Come morning, plump gray plovers amass
on the beach, these shores their winter bed.
The sun comes out, superfluous. We turn
to the dunes, pluck wild cranberries by the sea.
Rosehips. It takes all day for the wind to lift.
Provincetown haloed in last light, the storm

sated. Later I wake, step out: A mass of yellow moon in the bay
and though I can’t see them, the terns still calling from the oyster beds.
Tomorrow they will lift, spread, swirl like any hurricane.


Kateri Kosek’s poetry and essays have appeared in Orion, Creative Nonfiction, Terrain, and other journals. She teaches college English and mentors in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University, where she received an MFA. She has been a resident at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska, and lives in western Massachusetts.

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