Sestina Settings

Read it back to me

It’s a common practice to go back and reread what you’ve written.  It helps the writer to see whether the piece is hanging together and whether it flows.  For me reading the piece aloud is vital.  There is something about the resonance of the voice that animates a poem that reading it silently can’t achieve.  It’s possible to hear some things that aren’t visible.

As we approach the final stanza, my reread was done with the question, where has the poem been?  The tone throughout is one of desire and longing, but there are a few grounding phrases that might form subtle settings for each of the stanzas.  In the first we are at the altar; in the second, at the writing desk; in the third, out in the natural world; in the fourth, back at the altar, receiving communion but also returning to the world; in the sixth, caring for others, face to face with them and so, face to face with Jesus.

It is not perhaps that surprising that words formed from the desire of the heart should be set in real places in our lives, places where we can be honest, or seek solace, or ask forgiveness, or demonstrate the desire to give and be helpful.  The stanza this week though brings us to a place of intimacy and intensity — eye to eye.  A lovely place to come to, but harder to remain there, in place.

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.

Spirit meets my pulsing blood, erasing solitary,
I swallow your presence and savour forgiveness-wine.
Fed and refreshed, I will follow you, at my heart’s pace.
Obstinately though it wanders, sashaying to return,
firmly I step from altar to aisle, a journey of solace,
from broken to mended.  Grace, courage these bones!

To ease pain and comfort others near me, animate my bones
and mollify my indulgent propensity for the solitary
life, where I am my own.  Invigorate a venture from solace
of self, to setting a table, lighting the candles and uncorking the wine.
Let me break open an alabaster jar of love and return,
eye to eye with you to the table, sharing, at a love embodied pace.


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