Brushing up my Sestina

Tomorrow’s Oulipost prompt is going to be to source a sestina from local newspapers. I remembered I had a sestina written; and for some reason, even though the form doesn’t require a rhyme or meter, I did mine mostly in Iambic Pentameter. I probably won’t tomorrow…Ben and I are heading south to visit my parents for Easter weekend, so I’ll play catch-up on Monday.  Sestinas are long, though…39 lines, to be exact.

Since the words at the ends of lines are recycled in a different order for each of the six stanzas, then in the three-line envoi, it’s helpful to find “workhorse” words which can either do double- (if not triple-) duty. Here’s hoping the Courier & Press has some juicy words for me tomorrow! My old sestina is a bit ekphrastic–that is, it was inspired in part by a Waterhouse print of The Lady of Shalott:




Sestina for the Lady


She left me here alone, and left her life

unfinished. I remain and count the glass:

exploded fragments now reflecting light,

and shadows mark the hungry steps of time

in fearsome patterns.  I, and I alone,

remember music traced with faerie song.


An echo lingers from the night we sang

enchantments, shaping moonlit mist—a life

young lovers know—together but alone.

Despite my touch, her heart flew through the glass

and broke within her jail outside of time.

With crimson thread we wove by candle light.


The storm withdrew, and tapered to a light

and mournful tapping—rhythms of a song

unchanging (nature’s refrain) like the times

we sat in silence, her eternal life

reflecting vibrant landscapes through the glass;

envisioned by one questing soul alone.


Between the twilight and the dawn, a lone

disquiet slithers past the unchanging light—

A whisper lost amidst the twisting glass.

A sea awash with orphan dreamer songs.

They suffer, tearing through the veil to live

once more—souls wandering the mist of time.


And Time itself…relentless, pressing Time

cannot appreciate its march.  Alone

and not alone to witness shards of song.

The dust soon coats the windows, filters light

in pallid pools to still the breeze:  a life

she sang downriver, humming, eyes like glass—


So much remains here, captured in my glass:

abandoned relics of a golden time

of lovers, lords and holy funeral dirge,

the steady passing knights who rode alone.

Who bathed in rivers kissed by warm sunlight?

This curse befalls the one who shuns their life.


Cast out for shattered souls, for shards of glass

alone within the faerie threads of time,

living in shadows just beyond the light.

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