Sestina


A sestina is a complicated poetic construction wherein the same six words are repeated in a particular pattern throughout the poem. The key to a good sestina is to get the most mileage possible out of those six words, trying to eek nuanced meanings out of them. This is the first sestina I ever attempted, which I wrote between February and March 2006. At the beginning are the six words that repeat, picked because I liked the sound of them. I think it’s okay for a first go, but prefer the second one I wrote, which I’ll post here later.

Sestina I
By Mary Warner

  1. road
  2. stone
  3. twist
  4. fist
  5. thunder
  6. asunder


What is this I see? A road,
A path more dirt than stone
Walk until I find a twist
Boldly move and clench my fist
Fractured lightning, clap of thunder
Ripping the boiled sky asunder

Red fox tearing young rabbit asunder
Beneath the trees along this road
Ruffed grouse beats wings in thunder
Above, clouds gray as stone
Scuttle, hiding raindrops in a fist
My stomach knotted in a twist


As I wander absently, thoughts twist
While leaves underfoot blow asunder
One thought catches tight as a fist
You have set me upon this road
You with your soul of stone
Driving me from your voice of thunder

I ache to shout, burn to thunder
At the false yarns you twist
While calmly your face remains stone
No matter the lives you’ve set asunder
Homeless, except for this jagged road
Where the faithful man waves an empty fist

And me, the faithless, in my fist
I grasp honesty as a valley grips thunder
Hoping it will give me a map to this road
This trail where truth uttered becomes truth twist
Until it is unrecognizable, torn asunder
Forgotten as an old, worn stone

But, that is the secret of the truth stone
Shattered though it is by hardened fist
Pieces and shards scattered asunder
Still it exists, as surely as thunder
It must be ground to sand by the twist
Of many feet, pummeled by anger into this dirt road

When humanity is weary of living asunder, their footsteps of thunder
Will pound like a fist, and in a mighty twist
The crushed remains of stone-turned-lie will bind together in truth’s road.

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4 thoughts on “Sestina”

  1. Ooooo, very cool. I love complicated poetry forms. I like what you’ve written here, especially the way it moves from intense natural images to a raging of thoughts. I am interested to see the second one too.

  2. woowooteacup said:

    Thanks for the kind words, Joanne. They are especially pleasing today as I’m having an insecure writer’s day. I’m trying to figure out whether I should create a new page for the next sestina. I was going to pull this one and replace it with another, but it seems to be getting a few hits, so I need to rethink this.

    Thanks again for putting a smile on my face! 🙂

  3. hearthealth said:

    Red fox tearing young rabbit asunder
    Beneath the trees along this road…
    As I wander absently, thoughts twist…
    And me, the faithless, in my fist…
    Its amazing: Have you read of Richard Eberhardt’s “The Groundhog”? Both of you produce the same imagery.
    Every thing with the label sestina on it catches my eye because its the decisive ingredient to a poem that ive been mulling on for months now. I picture it having an allusion to James Joyce, and certain social issues peculiar to my area. I hope it succeed in arranging itself on paper… in my own handwriting! Please drop by my value for money MP3 reviews here. I hope you find your for-life writing roots!

  4. Hey, a very nice poem. Hadn’t heard of Sestina before. 🙂 Very nice indeed.

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