Yesterday we did an exercise where you write fourteen lines, each line is a question. So a question sonnet, we then shared our questions and tried to come up with answers. For example:
When did the stars decide to start shining?
Answer: Last Tuesday.
And such like.
I’ve stolen one of Michael Wilson’s questions to come up with a poem as an answer, and I’ve used a sestina form. I’ve never been able to do a sestina when I’ve tried before, so I just decided to write as much nonsense as possible. I choose six words to start which I randomly picked from American Gods by Neil Gaiman, the words are:
one; spider; afraid; line; kidney; saints
So here are six stanzas which end in alternating order with the same six words, and then an ending tercet which includes all six words. If you want to see a proper sestina, here is Seamus Heaney’s
And here is my nonsense sestina:
Which was the first reflection, sky or sea?
The sky has been haunting the sea since day one
Planting itself on a cloud and taking photos, casting a line
Into the depths like a fisherman always praying to saints
The patron St Andrew, kept on fishing for fish like small kidneys
Playing in the reflection fanciful as flies belonging to the sea’s spider
If only there were an answer but there’s not, I’m afraid.
I’ve met mermaids who know what being afraid
truly means, their hair all salt covered and especially one
who’s gone far enough to think she can fly like a spider
creating a web spun of wings that balances on the line
of the sky’s tightrope, clouds drenched as a diabetic’s kidneys
are in failure, their water medicine as holy as saints
falling down into the position of church statues of saints
all nailed to the wall and fixed with expressions suggesting they are afraid
their heads about the size of a fist, the size of a kidney
plunging their stony bodies into the sea or the sky, either one
will do for absolution, which brings us back to the first line
which was the first reflection? Only tell if you are wise as a spider
Seaweed thick as cobwebs spun by a Titan’s giant crab spider
It clicks and mutters like a grandmother sorting out her saints
into the right order, she dust a shelf and sets them in a line
their china sparkly and the milkmaids the next row down, slightly afraid
of the saint’s judgement on their flounces, I thought he was the one
They whisper together, pregnant as a body with too many kidneys.
The water filters rubbish seacomers pour into it, like one large kidney
waste disperses across the sea without a centre where a spider
might sit chewing up the cans and crisps, just the one
vast expanse all filthy and oil driven I think the saints
are all turning in their graves, my neck is cold as if I’m afraid
I think that means the dead are speaking about me, reading their lines
like playactors with different techniques to memorise their character’s lines
the sky is at fault, it is always forgetting to mirror exactely what happens, a kidney
that’s been dissected and is transulent beneath a microscobe, scientists are afraid
of looking too close into what they might find, so turn the million eyes of the spider
towards the sky, and think that’s where God dwells and all his saints
so why be worried about the fact we’ve ony got a sky and sea, two yet one
I draw the line under being afraid of the answer
There isn’t just the one, like kidneys there might be two,
or the amount of legs on a spider, or the number of saints owned by the grandmother.