Sestina for Jane at 14

In February, we sat on the back steps
in the sunlight, summer air on our arms.
I couldn’t resist the muddy grass
so took off my shoes and pressed
my feet into the earth and was forgiven
for my long exile inside behind a closed door.

The bell on this door
at the top of the sloping green steps
is old fashioned and you’d be forgiven
for throwing up your arms—
it wants to be turned, not pushed or pressed,
and replies with a ring as soft as summer grass.

“Mmmm, come onto the grass,”
I chimed but your face, a half-open door,
stayed as it was and if I’d pressed
I knew it would shut and up the steps
you’d go and into the house; my arms
open in your wake, wanting more but forgiven.

Each of us could be forgiven
for our stance on bare feet in boggy grass,
for our pale, timorous arms,
for feeling the temptation of a nearby door,
not knowing the exact steps
to reach connection. But on we pressed,

two soft shrub roses pressed
into the same book, forgiven
for our separation. At the bottom of the steps
standing on the cool, fertile grass
I studied the angle of the door,
half open, the cross of your slender arms.

February has laid down its arms
and given us this reprieve, pressed
warm breath onto our faces, drawn open the door
so we can be together, all forgiven,
knowing that the weave of the grass
leads to our own true home’s steps.

My arms will always reach out and you are forgiven
your fear of being pressed. With one last kiss of feet to grass
I turn from the door, toward you, and sit back down
on the steps.