The Iowa Review

Iowa City Sestina

This town is stitched by river—
that finds and winds its way through trees
whose leaves curl yellow—and every poem
is found to contain it, them, and cicada
call. Perhaps they too stand for longing
forded by an imagined Atlantic bridge.

Outside my window the bridge
of green, wrought iron spans the river
asks what is there to miss? It will not be long
love, till you find me under this tree
straining to describe the cicada
song that is shot though this poem.

Each avenue of the city, a walking poem
of considered views that yield to bridges
over which the chatter and clatter of cicada
curls and pulls time forward in a river-
ing flow while leaf considers tree
and the blue reflection of sky is longing

for river just as water is longing
for color much as word yearns for poem
or its echo in a lover's ear. The tree
stands alone, says desire less, bridge
with what you have here and the river
will carry to you all the cicada

pulse and call of a continent. Wish cicada
tymbal on the banks of all Iowas along
the Mississippi as it rivers
out through prairie, plain, and poem.
The pitched sough of the train that bridges
the night, freights stories of corn field, of oak tree

to the city's gridded morning where trees
anoint the grass with shade, students read, cicada
conversations fade. Later, stepping to the bridge
the Capitol dome will throw its gold reflection, elong-
ating the reach of a September dusk where a poem
or thought might constellate. Deep in the river

open-mouthed carp gape up at trees, long
branches pooling on its ceiling while cicada-poem
clicks, calls forth a silent bridge to span the river.


The Iowa Review

Founded in 1970 and edited by faculty, students, and staff from the renowned writing and literature programs at the University of Iowa, The Iowa Review takes advantage of this rich environment for literary collaboration to create a worldwide conversation among those who read and write contemporary literature.
     They publish a wide range of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, translations, photography, and work in emerging forms by both established and emerging writers. Work from their pages has been consistently selected to appear in the anthologies Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories.

The Iowa Review online


Nell Regan is an Irish poet and non-fiction writer. Her 3rd collection One Still Thing (Enitharmon Press) is partly based on her time in Iowa and the US as a Fellow on the International Writing Programme, University of Iowa and Fulbright Scholar at UC Berkeley. Other awards include the 2016 Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship and her latest publication is the historical biography, Helena Molony: A Radical Life (Arlen House).

"Iowa City Sestina" originally appeared in The Iowa Review Volume 43, Issue 1 (Spring 2013).

Nell Regan's website

This page was first displayed
on January 10, 2018

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