Friday, May 23, 2008

The Sestina


I did it. I made it through the April "write-a-poem-a-day" month-long challenge. If you asked me what the hardest day was I'll tell you simply...Day 28...and the Sestina. I'd never heard of the form before and it required a bicycle tire pump to keep my left brain inflated enough to keep track of the formula.

You've got seven stanzas...the first six are six lines long and the seventh is three lines...six words are used to end the lines of the stanza and appear in a rotating math the seventh stanza two words appear in each line.

I know. My eyes were crossed by that point too! Making it through the challenge hinged on this though, so I was determined...grrrr. Many crumpled sheets of paper later I let go and let my mind create a painting. Once I had the visual, I picked six words from that visual and wrote them down in the order of the whole poem. Now I had the frame to hang a story on.

The Tulips

Sleepy morning had only opened one eye of light
while she'd been to market and back. Packages and tulips
litter the table, her hands cooling under running water,
knowing just which vase she wants, curving
through slices of sun, she opens
the cabinet and her hair falls.

Wave upon dark wave crests and falls
like carved mahogany polished with light,
one hand closing pulls it back, one hand opens
to the jar that will hold the tulips
waiting on the table, stems curving
to the sound of promising water.

She washes the vessel and halves it with water,
cuts the stem ends--a broken leaf falls,
behind on the white wall, her shadow curving,
but she doesn't see, eyes closed in the light.
The first time they met he bought her some tulips,
the magic phrase, "before the war," and her memory opens.

He told her he loved when a closed bud opens
and asked her to marry him down by the water,
he had hidden her ring inside one of the tulips.
She pushes him over, laughing he falls.
Remembering, she laughs with her ring in the light
round her finger, curving.

So long since she clung to him in their goodbye, curving
into the scratch of his uniform. Her mouth opens
to taste his promise on afternoon's light,
quenching her thirst with cool, clear water
she stirs the stew, awaiting the sound of his foot-falls,
the table set for two, with tulips.

He promised to come home if she kept tulips.
He had whispered it softly into her ear's curving,
"With two lips home waiting, a man never falls."
At the stroke of sunset the matchbox opens,
she flames the candle's glow on petals, glass and water,
a pleading, calling light.

A stub of candle's light kisses tulips
in a jar of water, abandoned lines curving.
The front door opens. Into his two lips, at last she falls.


Tonya Root said...

Congratulations on completing the challenge! Your sestina is wonderful. I think that so many of the poets completed that day's prompt with aplomb. It was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's sestinas.

Lorraine Hart said...

Hey Tonya! How nice of you to come visit.

Someday I'm going to be brave enough to try another...if I have any left-brain left.

I haven't got a clue for this week's prompt yet...Lox