Stumping up Sestinas

Sestinas are self-obsessed, self-consuming poems; they lock you in and spit you out when they're done with you.



I hear ghosts in the long grasses, mocking

our deck chairs, our experiments on fare

strangely familiar. The end of the day gilds the van

it sleeps in a patchwork of scrub on the shoulder

of a new road. We turn to face the lake.

Far out, a line of trees smudge towards us.


The muted layers of receding hills behind us

whisper a welcome…their turn to mock

our status, our cameras aimed at their lake.

My eyes look to my husband’s welfare,

the sun sets and I cruise into Tom’s shoulder

thinking of the sprung mattress in the van


the wedding guests, the coqu-au-vin.

The day has been a long time ending for us…

I embrace the baggage of marriage to my shoulder

the weight of the wedding ring and mock-

diamond upon my willing hand. This is regal fare…

this man, Japan, this lake.


I wouldn’t skim stones across the sky on the lake

break the fragile skin. It’s dawn… the van

is warming to the journey ahead. Well, fare

the birds from our table. I erase all evidence of us,

bury the bridal condoms, else they’ll mock

me. Tom eases the van off the shoulder


and on to black tarmac. I look over his shoulder

to catch a last glimpse of our honeymoon lake

a burnished mirror blazing in the sun, mocking

our presence and our Made in Britain van.

Somewhere ahead there is a life for us

despite the past, but, how will we fare


in the tests? I draw up a bill of fare;

honey-roast ham, Littlewoods pools, shoulder

of lamb, three children and time…time for us

to keep promises, to return to this untitled lake

our love packed tightly, encased in the van,

only creased photos of creaking fashions to mock.




A new road, we turn to face the lake

strangely familiar. The end of the day gilds the van

I hear ghosts in the long grasses, mocking.

The End

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