In the cupboard was an empty glass
that has never been used, but to-day
was a special occasion, perfect
to bring it out for the first time.
And so, it was filled, with smiles
and laughter that also filled the night.
The moon rose, and the hour exceeded night.
Stars danced on the glass,
and sleep mixed with smiles
in the early hours of a new day
marked by a ticking clock and frozen time.
Could everything be perfect
Like this? A life spent to perfect
the dance with disease. Dewy night.
It froze with the time.
Stuck on the glass
were once smiles
that had to thaw with the day.
Finally dawning, the day
was scheduled to be perfect.
She shed the face of smiles
once worn for battle. Not another night
staring across the glass
into another world and another time.
A diversion sown in the time-
line; a second birth-day,
an old future, now shattered glass,
unforgotten – plans perfect,
carried out through her night
beneath the masked smiles.
She thinks back with smiles
on that suspended time –
only memories of a glittering night.
And in the contemporaneous day:
the lives labouring to perfect
the dreams that gazed through the glass.
As night transitioned to rouse the day,
the smiles wrinkled with time
once again perfect, etched in glass.
Typically, when we think of rhyme schemes, we think of lines ending in different words with similar sounds. In the case of a sestina, the “rhyme scheme” is composed of the same six words from the first stanza repeated in a different order throughout the subsequent six stanzas. By custom, the ending words of each line in the first stanza are numbered 1-6, and in the second stanza, the ending words will appear in the order of 615243, and the third stanza 364125, and the fourth stanza 532614, and so on until the sixth stanza. (Rather than memorizing the order of the words for each stanza, it is easiest to remember that the rearrangement derives from each previous stanza’s words.) The last (seventh) stanza is then different, ending on three lines rather than six. Here, each line must use two words from the six, such that all six words are in the last three lines. They appear in the order of 6/2 for the first line, 1/4, and 5/3 for the last line.
The complex and unconventional nature of the sestina’s “rhyme scheme” lends itself to represent the metabolic pathways and recycling mechanisms of the body. The rearrangements of the end words in subsequent stanzas is metaphorical to the catabolic and anabolic mechanisms that turn nutrients into different molecules used throughout the body. At first, the process seems disorganized and unpredictable, but a pattern does emerge. What originally may read as a cacophonic piece due to the lack of rhyming words becomes a more sophisticated treat.