The Sestina at Mid-point

The third whole week of Lent is over, and so the third stanza of the Sestina is complete as well.

Writing a poem by yourself is an activity of self indulgence. I can get a little lost, thick in words and phrases, crossing things out and adding things in here and there making changes at will. I can even go back and adjust an earlier word or phrase.

This process is very different from that.  I can take no liberty with what arrives in my inbox from the person who wrote the line before mine, and I can’t really do anything about the line that follows mine.  So, I spend my time, first trying to understand how it hangs together, what everyone was thinking as they wrote their lines, what clues they left me and then do my best.

I have several pages of scrawl by the time I trim my one line.  And then I release it.

It seems a lot of work for those few words. So far I’ve written a middle line, a starting line and the final line.  They’re all challenging – this last one especially because it was the middle of the poem — perhaps a place to make a shift, or a turn.  It may be impossible for six people to write with such attention to make a centre to a poem.  Maybe though, it doesn’t have to have one – maybe, it more truly reflects prayer as it is. How when we’re alone, we try to practice the freedom we are invited to – to speak with God.  I wander a little, try to speak from the heart and sometimes worry a bit irrationally that there is only a small space between earth and heaven to receive my prayer, like the slot that receives letters in great closed door

Bring a balm, a fragrance, to this heart in need of solace
and to this body bullied into this unholy pace.
Bind up my worries and sorrows.  Pour me love’s healing wine.
Let my soul draught deeply, let it soothe my bones.
Life to death.  Communion, please for the solitary
kneeling at the altar, my very essence, I return.

When I try to write, I’m too tangled in life to return
to my hidden landscape; weaving metaphors that bring solace
cyclical life from life is halted, melee arresting time of solitary.
Time is of the essence if I can still it, decelerate the pace
and breathe.  One thought at a time. Listen to the peace in my bones
spilling ink upon the page, forming orbs and angles, like water into wine.

Let me sip from the day, each moment, a mouthful of wine
life’s saturation, steeping the hours, inviting my return
to the green valley where new flesh forms on these dry bones,
where still waters ripple peace, and I find sweet solace
a cadence of renewal, at an unremitting pace
steadily walking, muscle and breath, neither solitary.

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