Astronomical Sestina | Katie Budris

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Waiting with the crowd for the hour
to strike, the wind breathes blue
and cold through Old Town Square, dead
leaves and lost postcards aimless,
swirling past my feet. I watch
hair and freckles rise on cold

arms, suppress July rain-cold
with a shiver. It’s quarter to the hour
noon on my white-gold watch,
but I can’t read this clock, with its blue
and gold, its four hands motionless,
framed by statues of sins and death.

When I was fifteen, my mother died,
gave in to January cold
and cancer, her last breath soundless.
I lit a church candle—our
Catholic prayer—gold flame glowed blue
in the wake of snow outside. I still watch

the fire curl in my head, watch
wax melt, remember her dying
for days wrapped in translucent blue
veins, oxygen cords, cold
cloths and warm blankets. The hours
passed slowly then, leaving me faithless.

I remember now, alone in Prague, lost
in a crowd hoping to watch
the Astronomical Clock tip the hour-
glass, golden bell chiming by death’s
skeletal hand. Were there crowds that cold
winter? Did their hands wrinkle blue

like my mother’s, blue
and shrinking? Did this timeless
clock chime when her cold
body released its soul to the watch
of God? The Prague wind dies
as the Astronomical Clock’s hour

strikes. Blue doors open and I watch
apostles parade, waving. No one dies

Born and raised in the Chicagoland area, Katie Budris completed her undergraduate work at Hope College in Holland, Michigan and earned her MFA at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Albion Review, After Hours Press, The Kelsey Review, Michigan Avenue Review, and Yellow Medicine Review. She lives in Philadelphia where she is a professor of writing at Rowan University and Community College of Philadelphia. She also serves as Managing Editor of Glassworks Magazine.

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