Friday, December 31, 2010

The Speechwriter: A Sestina

Horses, Riders, Girls

Weary toilers labor in the mine.
Their nights 'neath murky skies, bereft of cover
To shield them from the cold bite of the dawn.
To dark accustomed, by daylight blind,
With lives short, meaningless, and cold
Ripe to fall like fruit into my weave.

I work in shadow. Soft webs there I weave
of lies dyed with truth. Fears and hopes I bind to mine.
So they gather: to find respite from the cold
they grasp at scraps of fellowship I offer. No cover
do they give. 'Tis but yet another blind
that steals from them the light of dawn.

Fully-formed, I was born at dawn
of civilization, when women learned to weave
fine fabrics of linen and of wool and colored stones. Blind
are they to subtle ambition that would mine
Fruits of their labor, under cover
of gaudy diversions from truths so hard and cold.

The final hours of the night are cold.
Their sleep is restless ere the creeping dawn.
Imprisoned even in their dreams, I cover
them with phantasms of becoming kings. I weave
dreams into a pattern: its warp and woof are mine.
To their own natures they are blind.

Kings, bishops, idols too are blind
and ensnaréd by my web. From steel, so clear and cold
comes power, they believe. Yet also they are mine.
I give them only words, they say: the thoughts that dawn
upon their minds are theirs. This is how they weave
their snares, are ensnared–and cast over me my cover.

The minds of mothers and of sons with fears I cover
Of invading hordes from mists thick enough to blind
the eyes they think are clear. Such a weave
of fears and nightmares, of hatreds cold
Holds back for another turn the dawn
of a cohort that would consume mine.

From my thoughts they weave against the cold
Cloaks that cover eyes and faces. To my web all are blind.
Hush! 'Tis dawn. Like all days, the coming day is mine.

The sestina is a verse form invented by the troubadour Arnaut Daniel de Riberac nearly a thousand years ago. This is the first one I've written, and it was fun to write. There's a strangely ornate, almost baroque feel to what comes out of the form.

I've never written much verse, and am awfully bashful about any I do write. My friend the Hedgewitch has encouraged me to try my hand at it, so I have. Perhaps there will be more...


  1. In total agreement with Nella Lou, but you knew that. The tension here and the inexorable progression (partly from the form itself, but also from your language and use of image) tie everything together very smoothly, but I have to admit to liking best the third stanza with it's patient women weaving and the last sextet, where the web of self-serving artificial fears and nightmares is almost palpable.