Branching Away: A Sestina by Bonnie MacAllister

Branching  Away:   A Sestina


She awoke, window shade rattling. The moon

Stood red and close, seeming to dent

The oak branch, tree knots plump to limits,

A preganancy in pits, overlit by lunar cycles. A shelf

From her adolescence became a treehouse without lush

Accommodations, door, or even ladder, implying


She was a contessa without a castle, implying

She was a lass without a latch.  That moon

Had held her attention, deep in cries for a certain lush,

That fellow who had hung her up like a ringtone, dented

And scratched her for discounts and bottom shelf

Whiskies and elixirs.  He had even overtaxed her limits.


Her line of credit was now shut off, limited

Only to what the government would provide, implying

She was not resilient enough to thrive on her own cupboards and shelves.

Last night under the cusp of the summer’s bloodcut moon,

Her mother offered her sanctuary in her old bed.  Her dent

At eighteen years old was still preserved in the padding, lush


And forgiving, the scent of laundry powder and starch, luscious

To breathe in as she held her air within centimeters of her limit.

She thought she had caused internal damage, caused her lungs to dent.

Rolling about in white sheets she had not tarnished, implying

Her prints of tree rot and window rust were hennaed on, baked in moonlight

Cemented in her sighs.  She rose to read the titles on the nearby shelf,


Her mother had left a message in the titles.  The shelf

Bore seventies and eighties manuals on child rearing, lush

Pictures of ruddy infants, tasting mothers’ breasts and breaths, bare moon

Cheeks decorated in powders and creams.  She coughed, limiting

Her blood and airflow.  Could she crack a spine, imply

A crease, implicate herself, carve her initials in the dents?


Beyond the hows and tos, a small box opened to reveal dental

Histories, a pile of offerings to a fictional fairy, a pandora’s altar on the shelf.

By this collection, she was unsure what her mother had meant to imply.

That the magic of porcelain, discarded from mouths lush

With new growth between pink roots, loose with limited

Crowning, ripe for a phase, like visible hemispheres of each moon.


Each distinct tooth appeared moonlike, lit in hollows, shaded in dents.

She limited her time with the box, raising it back onto the shelf,

Turning her attention to the flesh lush with new life, implying it was time again to begin.

Garden of Decay
ZigZag Handmade Art Collective
Photographer: Aubrey Keegan
Handmade Crocheted Sculpture by Rachel Udell
Model/ Styling/ Mask: Ellen Bonett

Bonnie MacAllister renders moments through a variety of media. Often pieces are multi-genre, fusing painting, photography, slide installations, spoken word, video, and performance.  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, poetry slam champion in the United States and France, and Fulbright-Hays awardee to Ethiopia.  Her poetry has been published in Esque, 10,000 Poets for Change/Fieralingue, Grasp, nth position, and Paper Tiger Media.

Zigzag Handmade is a multimedia collaborative performance and puppetry group based in Philadelphia, PA with an emphasis on fiber art. Zig Zag is in production for a multimedia puppetry production of MacAllister’s She Should Have Written It:  A Tale of Bohemian Surveillance.