April is National Poetry Month, so I’ll be posting a few poems this season. Currently I spend more time writing prose stories instead of poems, so it’s been fun for me to look back at poems I wrote in past decades.
This poem is from a period when I was experimenting with classic forms. When I was younger, I had steered away from such forms, thinking they would cramp my creativity. Instead I found that the discipline required was paradoxically very freeing. The constraints of the form would point me in a certain direction, and often lines would come to me unbidden, as if by magic. It seemed a very spiritual experience.
As you can see, the sestina consists of six verses, each with six lines. The same end-words repeat in every verse, their order prescribed by the rules of the form. Don’t worry about figuring it out, just enjoy!
Afternoon sun lays a golden hand
on the cinnamon brown
head of an advancing bear,
past snow-melt river
to sanctuary of spicy redwoods.
From safe perch atop redwoods
she watches, her hands
itching to feel cool river
rush across sore fingers, feet, and aching brown
limbs, but seductive west
beckons her to follow robust bear.
my fear and fascination, redwood
heart, wise elder of the west,
gift my hands
with healing and forgiveness, brown
angels of the valley, wash me in the river.
Swift is the river
that carries me to my bear.
He looms in large shadows, nut brown
in fragrant forest dense with redwoods
extending feathery hands
leading me farther west.
The sun is melting into west
between the river
and my hands.
lovingly embraces me, redwoods
sway, my sky a muddy brown.
His face is cinnamon, his eyes coco brown.
Orange and pomegranate drift west
above the redwoods.
slows down; mighty bear
prepares to sleep; he frees my hands.
My hands, brown and bare, flutter like slender birds
winging west along this river/redwood freedom/empty sky.
Photo by Jessica Weiller on Unsplash.
More info on how to write a sestina: