Street Sestina

by Annie Katchinska

A woman stands and opens her mouth

to screech: “These HORRORS, these EVILS, these CRUDE-“/

While pamphlets are scattered like holy white birds.

He pleads with them. Islam! Jihad: Striving

For Peace!/ “CRUDE and BLASPHEMOUS-” Just
some old woman

in some shopping lane, in the skin-stripping wind.


Words carry. Heaved and tossed by the wind

they shoot like tear gas from the round black mouth.

“-UNHOLY, INHUMAN-“/ The Muslim Woman

is dropped on the pavement. His opinions are crude

but earnest. He talks. He’s trying. He’s striving

to make them see. But they scatter like birds./


The air is thick with obese birds.

She hollers: “-this SPREADING DISEASE-” and
the wind

can’t drown out the sound of the people all striving

to ignore him. His truth. Some muttering mouth

will mock his pamphlets and effort but no crude

jokes can stop him./ “WHAT kind of WOMAN


SUBMITS herself to it?” Not this boiling woman,

her bosom heaves, creaking like dying birds.

She has a banner. The drawings are crude

and you laugh at her dress that flaps in the wind

while I stare at the red-black, street-eating mouth.

To be so sure’s what we’re all striving


for./ And he’s still sweating, striving

against her. The Muslim Life, Man & Woman – /

“-these SINS straight from the QUR’AN’S MOUTH-“/

– whip through the air amidst throngs of birds.

He stops strangers, urgent./ She shouts down the wind./

His eyes are so desperate and raw it’s crude –


they single me out, as you make your crude

hand gestures, behind his back. You’re striving

to make me laugh. But I’m watching the wind

blowing his hair in his eyes./ Now the woman

fights to be heard over pamphlets and birds

and a city’s huge noise, its one howling mouth./


Crude free hell. How can we hear one boy or woman

striving against all this street shriek – as fat birds

battle the wind – from the scores of black mouths?