An exercise in form and voice.

Separation: Sestina

I imagine you with your stomach pressed against the counter,
butter knife in hand, slicing open a fresh roll.
Beside the cutting board, a tall glass of milk,
bags of local produce, artisanal cheese, fair-trade coffee.
You pause to brush the crumbs from your hands
and permit a small smile as you consider your spoils.

It's been a good morning, but the text I just sent spoils
your placid mood. You want no intrusions. You'll counter
the disappointment by saying "It's out of my hands"
and heading out to sit on the patio with your buttered roll,
leaving your phone next to the bag of coffee
and forgetting all about the detested glass of milk.

After all these years I know better than to try to milk
you for affection, even conversation. Any attempt spoils
the quiet civility we achieved after months of therapy, coffee
spilling with every wild gesture as we leapt to counter
each other's accusations with more noise, ready to roll
out a years-long litany of grievances, balling up our hands.

I can't remember the last time I felt your hands
on my skin. You used to slide them smooth as milk
over every inch of me, every splotch and curve and roll.
I once told my sister "You should see how he spoils
me." I tracked your love in mental tokens, adding a counter
every time you kissed me. You always paid for my coffee.

These days I see our counselor alone. She pours coffee
from the machine in the corner and listens, chin in hands,
while I wrestle with leaving. She only interrupts to counter
my self-doubt, remind me how far I've come. I'll admit I milk
the positive reinforcement for all it's worth. Call it the spoils
of marital war. Today she told me she thinks I'm on a roll.

"Uh...hello? I asked if you want that on a croissant or a roll."
I'm jolted into the present by a bored voice and the smell of coffee.
"Oh, uh," I stammer. "Croissant, thanks. And I'll take my spoils
to go." I accentuate the joke with a tiny wave of my hands
while my crippling social dread turns my skin pale as milk.
If I could, I'd sink into floor right there in front of the counter.

With a roll of his eyes he hands
me my coffee. Back home your milk
spoils on the counter.

Poetry by Lady Courtaire
Read 107 times
Written on 2020-09-15 at 19:36

Tags Sestina  Form  Separation 

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Your ability to tackle the Sestina in a cogent way is awe-inspiring. My own attempts have only ever led to free-verse creative writing. I found the imagery enveloping, almost like this was an excerpt from someone's diary, unwittingly writing a Sestina as they reflected on how they arrived at their current location. I'm ready for the next scene. :-)

Bibek The PoetBay support member heart!
Sestina, for me, feels like an advanced poetic test. Your skillful hand has made the form-content harmony so smooth that I secretly got . . . envious (but in a good way). I like how one thought in one stanza leads to another in the next, and how the repeated words form a tight closure in the envoi. You've tamed the mad obsessional form with dexterity.

A rollercoaster of emotions. I enjoyed the way you set the mood and all of the milk connotations,if that's the right word.

The exigencies of the form are beautifully handled here. Bravissima!

Lawrence Beck The PoetBay support member heart!
Bravo! This is some serious wordplay.