Sestina: Example and Form

It’s not about peanut butter, but here is an example of a sestina. I wrote this poem a couple of years ago:

Wasps In Fact

I know the facts of the story.
I was there as witness, of course
and more than that, one of the saved
during the slaying of the wasps.
My father played the hero role
armed with a spray can and ladder.

Not sturdy, it shook, the ladder
as he climbed to the top story.
I never questioned my dad’s role,
the labor of knocking off course
any homesteading plans of wasps,
nor doubted if I would be saved.

The nest was enormous; he saved
it, carried it down the ladder,
proof that the multitudes of wasps
matched the large claims of his story.
The stings he received in the course
of battle also served this role.

He insisted they played no role
in making him sick, the stings, saved
that blame for the flu cutting course
through the city. That the ladder
needed fixing fit the story
well, too, but not illness from wasps.

Now it falls to me, fighting wasps.
My children have filled my old role.
I saw right through my dad’s story
long ago. The spin he used saved
his ego I thought. The ladder
held steady later on, of course.

Raising children has been a course
in hindsight relating to wasps
and the sturdiness of ladders.
Less a character trait than role
requirement, dad’s bravado saved
us from fear; that’s now my story.

Over the course of time, the role
of wasps did not change; also saved:
the ladder’s part in the story. 


I’ve seen variations on the form, but they all involved using 39 lines and repeating the same six end words. I took my guidance from The Book of Forms by Lewis Turco. 

You can read more about the sestina here:

The Great Peanut Butter Tragedy

I assume everyone has heard about the salmonella outbreak by now, and the advice to cut out the peanut butter for the time being. Believe me when I say that a ban on the eating of peanut butter products will go down in my family history as a disaster worthy of its own title.

What am I supposed to throw into a school lunch when I’ve overslept and have only three minutes prep time? How can we live without our peanut butter chip granola bars? I went to the grocery store this morning, and it was really only then, as I cruised the aisles wistfully bypassing one desired item after another that I realized the extent to which my gustatory life revolves around peanut butter.  Couldn’t buy my favorite breakfast cereal. My daughter will have to forego her usual bed-time snack. 

I’ve relied on peanut butter to be an easy, affordable, yet surprisingly guilt-free way to assuage hunger within my family. I’m not all that great at domestic stuff. (In fairness to myself, I do know the rules for writing a sestina, so I’m not useless.) Without peanut butter, I’ll be forced to put thought and effort into meal planning, and even snack planning. I’m not sure I’m up to the task.