Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sestina Attempt #1

My exploration of poetic forms continues with the sestina. The same six words are used to end the lines of the six line stanzas. The order of the words changes according to a patterm that I struggled to understand until I recalled the "inverted sock" of Brown's commencement tradition, where all grads and alums walk past one another. I'd explain better, but Miguel is about to wake up from his nap. Anyhoo, I chalk this effort up to "good for the brain" and recording a memory rather than literary aspirations!

About bug bites, winter and typical parental fear and hope. . . .

More than others in our party, I itch.
We didn’t know it would be such a risk
Taking the plunge from our Andean home
Close to la selva, down two thousand feet.
Legs bare, guard down, we swam and took a walk:
Invisible swarms attacked us with ease.

Our constellations of welts scream for ease.
John and I were the first to howl “We itch!”
Children and spouses seemed spared by the walk
Then their bites reddened and revealed the risk
Of a night spent clawing raw legs and feet.
Still, we are glad to be here instead of home.

Miguel likes to say “Home away from home.”
His joy and exploring has been our ease
Where there’s no snow in cold inches or feet
Or my sigh when he gets that itch
To breathe and kick the drifts, stir up some risk--
And piling ten layers hinders the walk.

To be fair, we thrive on brisk winter walks,
Or at least take pride in the seasons of home
Where blizzards and black ice offer some risk.
Can you build character in a climate of ease?
Creo que si cuando bugs make you itch.
I think I’ll stay above five thousand feet.

For now, at least until my restless feet
Crave the harsh chill of a toe wiggling walk
I will accept an inconvenient itch.
Where we can soften and slow, will be a home.
Miguel needs to see us open, at ease.
Where slips and bruised lips are benign risks.

He has our heart, our hope, now that’s a risk.
Too soon he’ll control the fate of his feet.
Do we wish him a life of quiet ease
Or brambles and bites, a strenuous walk?
Or just that he will always call us home.
And know how to handle an itch.

Where there is an itch, there will be a risk.
Where there is a home, there will be restless feet.
May we walk long, and return without too much ease.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Villanelle Attempt #1:

To get out of a thinking rut, I am going to experiment with making poems according to various forms. Lisa P made me promise to write while in Ecuador, so here is a villanelle, in response to Miguel’s habit of 1) sleeping perpendicular to his crib (and here, in his little tent) and 2) waking up before dawn and being unable to go back to sleep unless he can “snuggle” with us, which for him is a contact sport.

Villanelle Attempt #1:

Once again you are perpendicular.
The thrashing has finally eased.
You have hurt nothing in particular.

The days have become slow and circular.
The nights leave us reeling and squeezed.
Once again you are perpendicular.

You are squirmy, compact and muscular.
When the rooster calls, we are kneed.
You have hurt nothing in particular.

But our frustration stirs the vascular.
“It’s still night-night!” we shift and plead.
Once again you are perpendicular.

You pop up and grin—it’s spectacular.
We groan and forgive. You are pleased.
You have hurt nothing in particular.

Through another night you have traveled far
Flopping and kicking sheets with speed.
Once again you are perpendicular.
You have hurt nothing in particular.
Here are some first stanzas of villanelles from poets who really knew what they were doing! Follow the links for the entire poems.

Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.