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by Elizabeth Bishop

Sestina Summary

Because of the sestina form, this is kind of a wild, circular summary, but we'll take you for little ring around the rosy. It's September, late afternoon, and it's raining out. A grandmother and her granddaughter are inside making a snack and some tea. To kill some time while the water boils, they read the almanac and make jokes out of what they find. Even though the grandmother is laughing, it seems she is upset about something, because she's trying to hide her tears.

At this point, both the grandmother and the grandchild seem to disappear into their own private thoughts. The grandmother thinks how her sadness might be connected to the time of year, and the child is distracted by the condensation forming on the teakettle. While the grandmother tidies up—hanging the almanac back on its string, putting more wood on the stove—the child draws a picture of a house and a man "with buttons like tears" to show to her grandma.

The poem ends in a pretty imaginative way, with the almanac dropping imaginary moons from its pages into the flower bed of the kid's drawing, then saying "time to plant tears"; the grandmother singing to the stove; and the child drawing another scribble of a house with her crayons.

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