More on the art of sestina poetry
Published: May 2, 2008
|Contributing editor Marilyn Taylor explores the poetic challenge of the sestina in the June 2008 issue of The Writer. Here are two examples to inspire you!|
by Michael Kriesel
Staring at the picture window's winter
yard, I focus hard and try to freeze time
from under the couch. Halt each flake of snow.
I'm six and watching Twilight Zone alone.
A silver flying saucer delivers
cancer and I know sooner or later
it'll find me. Now forty years later
it's late November. Another winter.
My uncle Dale and me, delivering
firewood. Later, there's still enough time
to cut red oak. The two of us alone,
his tumor in remission. There's no snow
yet, so our hands stay dry. Most years there's snow
before Thanksgiving. Each day it gets late
a minute earlier. Back home, alone
with my thoughts and a bottle of winter
bock beer, dad's old paperbacks kill some time.
"Swinging his broadsword, Conan delivered
a killing blow." Cancer of the liver
killed my dad. "Like twin piss holes in the snow,
the wizard's eyes flayed his soul." The last time
we brought dad home the clouds were bone. Later
I walked to Dairy Queen. It was winter
then, too. Two years ago. I drink alone,
thoughts looping down a logging road. "A lone
figure trudged the tundra where nothing lived."
Cancer just keeps coming back, like winter.
"Rolling downhill he grappled with the snow
ape- sheathing his knife in its guts." It's late.
I unsheathe my chainsaw, sharpen its tines
and brood on Conan's grim God, Crom. One time,
he helps, granting strength at birth. My dad's one
gift. The scabbard's orange, plastic. It's late.
I sheathe my blade and rise; deliveries
tomorrow. I see where this all goes. Snow;
no snow. Banal repetition. Winter.
Trees. Time. Lives. The way my stoic liver
works. I drink alone, waiting for the snow
and a later season, beyond winter.
|LOVE & DEATH|
by Moira Egan
Looking back, I presupposed love,
I suppose. At least, I felt a whiff of death
each time she left. She had a theory: that sex
was the only path to the truth. Philosophy,
religion, physics - the other,
traditional pursuits - had it all wrong. Only poetry
came close, but who can live on poetry?
Too sweet by far, though one can learn to love
it, to breathe, to eat it like candy. Still, other
nutrients are necessary: death
comes from such monotony. (Her philosophy,
though sweetly spun, was never so refined as her sex.)
And it was, after all, the pure white sex
between us that drove me to poetry.
How else to express the brazen philosophy,
the teleology of flesh beyond love,
the ontology of sex that can lead to death?
And we've all heard stories of others
who've actually died from it: The other
becomes the self, the sex
that binds us, wrist and foot. The little death
claws at your throat, your cry like poetry:
an eerie diction I grew to love.
"I'll never read philosophy
again." I embraced you, your strange philosophy,
and, forsaking all others,
turned to tell you of my love.
Which you call merely sex.
Is there solace in Poetry?
Just then I longed for Death.
Or did I? You arrive like Death,
tricked out in black, and burn my philosophy
books. Pale lips still pouty with poetry,
you tell me, of course, that I wasn't just another,
and I, of course, believe you: You left because the sex
felt so much it hurt almost like love.
When we last made love, you left another
scar. And philosophy feels like death to me,
and I can't find any poetry in sex.
(from Cleave: Washington Writers' Publishing House, 2004)
originally published in Boulevard, 1994
--Posted May 2, 2008