Artwork © Donna A Black


Sestina for Sinéad O’Connor

It was never your way to sustain,
so colorless, so black
so suffered a song, choosing
only the darkest note on the darkest string.
No. No, you were the one to sing, wrestle an angel
then ask him his blessing, true to form;

your voice a summer storm in another form,
its sound so sudden and strange, the sustain
of such a slender-throated angel
when what you’d known was the deeper black,
that inner noose knotted out of apron string,
rage that came of the choosing—

one child kept, one child not, choosing
a family’s sad lot, stark form
tethered on a borrowed string.
It was you they couldn’t sustain, one
mouth too many, the river wide and black.
Would that there’d been the one more angel,

the sent-to-save-and-protect sort of angel,
that would have spared you all the choosing-
not-choosing, the bitter and the black
-est days that made you so expert in cloud form
despite the rain, despite the pain, the bright sustain
of a taught and tuned metal string;

one last quiet hand placed on the string
by that burning angel
that told you to sing, told you sustain
what was good of God’s choosing
no matter the name, or language, or form
—the prayer, or its lack, white or black.

Your last song’s glowing water—water, not the black
of that dark well, fathomed finally, filled, stone and string.
Your own affections —your own broken child —another form
of weakness —or the delicate, dangerous work of an angel
             and not a task of anyone’s choosing
—that sour note even secret to yourself you sustained

—not a chosen song form, dear desolate angel,
but your black hosanna hung like a drone string
note of stark choosing, such a pure and terrible sustain.


Tom Driscoll lives in Lowell, Massachusetts with artist, Denise Driscoll. He has a book called The Champion of Doubt coming out this summer.

Donna A Black is a mixed media artist specialising in comic art and covers. Originally trained as a photographer she uses her skill with lighting and composition to give her mixed media artworks a very unique feel.