This was my first real attempt at writing a sestina. I have tried once before, but found myself too restricted by the form. This time, I adapted a poem that I’d previously written into a loose sestina – and I think that it has been more successful. I have been less rigid with structure, perhaps, but I felt that it suited the context of the poem. I have written about a woman who I grew close to when I was volunteering at a care home.
“How’re you feeling today? It’s been an awful long time.”
yes, yes its been a long time since
my husband died in that car crash out to sea
I wonder have you
seen my nephew I so like to be clean
“What nephew? Do you have a nephew, joanne?
You’ve never mentioned a nephew, joanne.”
why of course I have a nephew its time
for him to curl up right under that clean
rug I have nomummynodaddynobrothersnorsisters but since
I gave birth to my little nephew he’s been curled up under that clean rug “Do you
mean sons, joanne?” no I havent any sons they drowned themselves see
like puppies in my bath water one spring day by the sea
so I haven’t any sons but I have a little daughter and you “Me, joanne?”
are my daughter and you are getting married “Me, joanne?” yes you
you silly billy milly and ill make you roast potatoes once ive time
to clean this whole room up spick and span that’s my plan since
I have nothing else to do “joanne is your leg any better?” oh a clean
leg why I have two have you seen my fluffy new socks they’re ever so clean
and smart I do like to be clean “joanne, your seat
is wet.” oh no my darling, dear my seat could never be wet since
it wouldn’t be clean and I do so like to be clean “Oh, joanne.”
could you be a darling dear and get my son for me its time
to see him before he jumps off of the ship again you
know “Oh joanne, oh joanne, don’t raise your
top like that – everybody’s watching and your clean
nephew can see from under the mat.” don’t worry darling there’s time
dear, clean daughter, no one even knows im here you see
no one knows when I came or when I left and “Oh, joanne.”
I left a long long time ago for a walk in the sunshine since
Eva who slips me Digestives and Darjeeling left since
then I’ve been screaming hellos at this clean warmth and you’d
think it were a mortuary and me and I joanne
who is beside herself in a clean
mortuary I need to wash in the sea
you see there’s no time Eva dear no time no time
joanne hasn’t been there since she got new socks no joanne
hasn’t been to see that clean place where my nephew drowned you see
I need time off to go to the sea, need time away from the mortuary oh need time

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