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Sestina
Sestina
by Elizabeth Bishop

Stanza 6 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 31-33

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears

  • Again, the grandmother seems to drift off into her own world, puttering around at the stove, finding ways to keep busy. Sometimes people who are very sad try to hide their emotions by doing things, so it's possible that's what's going on here. But we can't be sure. 
  • Here comes the imaginative world again—little moons are falling down like tears. Now, what could these little moons be? Are they in the child's drawing, are they in the grandmother's eyes, are they outside falling from the sky?
  • Notice how the world of reality (tea time around the stove) and the world of fantasy (moons dropping out of nowhere) have started to come closer together, to the point that we can't quite tell the difference between them. It's as though these worlds are blending together.

Lines 34-36

from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

  • Newsflash! The moons are falling from the pages of the almanac. That's… weird, to say the least.
  • Let's take a look at it without the line breaks: "But secretly, while the grandmother busies herself about the stove, the little moons fall down like tears from between the pages of the almanac into the flower bed the child has carefully placed in the front of the house." 
  • Phew. Are you tired yet, because we are. That is quite a complicated sentence. We have to reread it several times to understand what exactly is going on. 
  • The little moons are the subject of this sentence, and they are in complete control of their movement from the almanac to the child's drawing. In other words, the almanac isn't chucking them at the child—the moons are falling on their own. 
  • Also, they seem to be falling into a very specific place in the child's drawing. They don't fall onto the front door, the windows, the chimney, or the roof that the child might have drawn—they fall into the flowerbed. The fact that the child has given the "rigid" house a flowerbed makes us feel like she might be trying to cheer her drawing up.
  • Notice again how the imaginative, fantastical moments in this poem are being wrapped into the real moments like sour cream in a burrito supreme. This sort of creates a dreamy, swirly effect toward the end of the poem.
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