Throwback Thursday–Sestina

I thought it might be fun to do a Throwback Thursday, where I share something I wrote way back when. So I’m posting the first sestina I ever completed. For those of you who don’t know, a sestina is an Italian form of poetry that has a very specific rhyme scheme and only uses six end words for all six verses. You can read about the form here.


You jerk me from the book, to which I cleave,

Desperate in these small hours, the lamp-lit kind,

When I shipwreck upon this lonely isle

Of stringent wakefulness. O chirping bird,

It seems we are the only ones awake,                                       5

Adrift amid the current of the night.


My bed’s a boat lost in this alien night

And yours an alien wood, where moonlight cleaves,

Where through the leaves the bright moon, wide-awake,

Ascends her silent sky. The stars in kind                                  10

Make way, so far removed from you, small bird,

Small creature lost with me here on this isle.


Some nights I run adrift here on this isle,

On sleepless sandbars, castaway of night,

My sole companion here an unseen bird                                  15

Outside. He to his shielding darkness cleaves,

Somewhere out there, restless among his kind,

Up in his tree the only one awake.


We are the castaways, so long awake—

Your silent beach the yard, a wooded isle,                               20

And mine the silent bedroom that in kind

Reveals departed day. Here, in this night

We face the hours alone and through them cleave

But slowly, waiting for the call of birds.


The only sound: the keening of a bird                                      25

Somewhere night-hidden, puzzled, and awake

Along with me, both from our slumbers cleaved

And keeping watch. The minutes on this isle

Turn slow as sea-moved pebbles in the night,

And darkness is to us no longer kind.                                      30


We’ve wrecked at night, in silence and awake,

Two disparate kinds, both mortal: human, bird,

Two cast-offs on this isle to which we cleave.


So there you go! My first sestina.


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