Sestina #2

‘There are many ways to be blind,’

A mantra that curls in my head, thin trails of incense,

A mandala I trace each day in grey dust

Outside my door, before I run my fingers over the green

Railings and descend into the multi-threaded chaos of the world, raging white water

Every time I draw breath.

Today I have a momentary escape from the breath

Of the city, from the acres of blind

Eyes and stagnant water.

Today I travel ground-up small as incense,

Drifting towards this eclipsing montage of green,

A blinding libretto of nature that grinds plain words to dust.

All this happens in a moment, I am rubbing dust

Between my palms, and now each tautly drawn breath

Carries inside me the humid rush of green

That leaves my other senses blunted and blind,

The mystique of sharp incense,

The circuitous, infinite life of water.

The rain is only gentle feathers of water,

Soft,incipient, pluming liquid dust.

Even after they shake, my hands are yellowed and perfumed by incense

And the Buddha climbs in and out of me with each breath…

Now, once again, I am blind,

But with purpose. I can hold the world in a precious fragment of green.

I let the bodhi leaf slip, green

Masterpiece of reconstructed water;

Suddenly I am no longer blind

Folded, the dampened paper is removed as simply as stray dust,

And something is rushing into me as silent as breath:

Something much more than simple sandalwood incense.

One last twist of incense

Between the fingers and I am gone, out into the sunlight with the green

Leaf still gripped in the mind’s hands, the breath

Moving slowly, turning, the eyes adjusting, gaping like koi on the fine surface of the water.

What I knew before is as pale and ancient as dust,

I could see, but I was boundlessly blind.

I am forced to mix incense with water,

To wash the green and the dust alike from my hands:

The breath of the sestina reminds me of the many ways to be blind.


Sestina #1

The shuttle is weaving a blanket of words,

It ducks and bobs and spins as I write,

The echoes of the pen flow in waves,

And the wreathed silence around will keep me dry

As I move from coast to coast, a nomad,

And always fall into this enveloping silence.


This warm moving humid hurtful silence

Is sometimes too much, I cocoon myself in words

While I bump from train to train, a nomad

Who just wanted to leave to make things right.

Now the AC is humming and sucking me dry,

The air, like paralysis, coming in waves.


All night, the stuck record, your hand waves,

Rippling the air crafting cool hollows in the silence

That make me think of the desert, cruising dry

And bleaching the sense and feeling from words

That crumble even as I write,

Myself, sleeping on the sandy ground, a nomad.


I rise wreathed in morning mist, a nomad

Seeking the tall grass that waves

Across the Pacific, where I used to write

In a cold spindly hand, etching silence

Ironically enough, into words

That,later, fat women hang out to dry.


My eyes have never been so dry

From the stinging sand, I run, a shellshocked nomad

And shelter under an outcrop of sandstone words

That arc and reach in bleak strata like waves

But still, hammering like blood, comes silence

On gold wings, hallmarked and utterly right


Again the still stifling evening, I write

In watery ink, hang the words to dry,

Plane the edges off, the shavings twist into silence

In which the crack of dust is a sandstorm, a nomad,

A sound spreading outwards in waves,

Stronger than the shock of icy water poured onto molten words.

There is always something not right with the nomad,

Something missing, sickening in dry waves,

Grinding down the words, the silence, the sestina.



I recently had a prompt.. or exercise, whichever you prefer, to write a Villanelle. The form is an old one, but I’ve always enjoyed writing them. In this case I had to write two before I did one that I thought was acceptable.

Another day she can’t erase
A frail ghost of an aging plea
She turns away to hide her face

I can still imagine every place
We ran, every leaf on every tree
She turns away to hide her face

She leaped and spun infinite grace
And, simply put, I turned to flee
Another day she can’t erase

O fair foundation where to base
My ruin, darkness comes to me
She turns away to hide her face

And now, alone, I flit and pace
Whisper ‘to be or not to be’
Another day I can’t erase

I drift without her in this barren space
If I could… but never would foresee
She turns away to hide her face

She is gone without a trace
Without her I am failing by degree
Another day I can’t erase

But we have had our last embrace
We wade through the debris
Another day she can’t erase
She turns away to hide her face

A poetic experiment…

Or should I say an experiment in poetry. Whether or not it’s poetic is up to you to decide. Anyway, I recently started re-reading a lovely book on writing poetry called The Ode Less Travelled, by the stupendous Stephen Fry. This book contains a number of exercises on writing poetry, which I’ve been working through lately. The latest one was on syllabic poetry, which we’re all familiar with in the form of the haiku. Whether or not haiku work in English language poetry (they don’t), syllabic poetry can be interesting as an exercise in form.

Anyway, the last time I read this book was in 2006. So take a look at two things I wrote, about six years apart, with the same exact structure and the same topic, cleaning. The syllable pattern in this case is 361484163. Which do you prefer?


It comes off

With dust like white soap flakes


Washed right away

Bleached and clean as the Lethe’s flow

The naked rinse


Letting you breathe again

Through closed eyes.


Your hairs lie,

Trapped in between the sheets


As negatives,

Dirty as the trace of a sore,

The bleach will


This thread of memory,

Cold water.



Scrub, scrub, scrub

Out out damned spot, she says


He is slumped, out

Of commission on the couch

Slumped like daydreams


As the spray of Lysol

On windows


And he is

Circular argument


Prosaic tilt

And run of slackness, undone string

And lacking lilt


Out life like squeezing, hard,

A tiny sponge