Love lost you across a bloody ocean — a sestina

(...that I am simply tired of looking at.  And Paul had to go and mention sestinas.  
I'm not happy with it.  It isn't done. I have been working on it for at least a 
year and a half.      That may seem like a long time, but certain poems ask 
for more time....Time, I guess, to abandon it here...for now.)

Love lost you across a bloody ocean.
I am hidden from you, my love,		
a murrelet gone from the nest, lost		
to all the world, dreamed in bloody	
battles that boil and rage across		
imagined fields of poppies.  You		

color those blooms with absence.  You		
drain those lands, fill them like oceans	
and dance in my dark thoughts across   		
the miles that cleave us from our love-- 	
that have torn us into bloody			
halves for the peace of those lost		

in propriety—all those lost, 			
willful souls that we still love, you 		
and I, despite their blind, bloody		
ignorance, their minds an ocean		
of not thinking of all that love 		
can do, how it can reach across 		

any gap, bridge and arc across		
any space, rebuild any lost			
tie if we let it.  But our love			
can not bear the deceit that you		
and I must swim in.  We’re ocean			
creatures in air dragging bloody 		

limbs.  Our hearts limp through bloody	
shoals of dry ghosts.  We crawl across		
deserts’ dust, longing for ocean		
depths but the two of us are lost		
even to memory while you			
fight with honor every day.  Love?		

What do the free know about love 	
when they do not see your bloody		
eyes in the dark, can not hear you		
calling to another across			
all these nights alone?  I am lost		
in this empty, arid ocean.			

Now you, whom I’ve ever lost despite love, 
are farther than gone across a distance
greater than all these bloody oceans.

25 thoughts on “Love lost you across a bloody ocean — a sestina

  1. Sestinas are to poets as marathons are to runners. If you’re serious, you must do one sometime.

    This one is pretty great.

    My own efforts aren’t nearly as successful and put me in mind of what Adam Lefevre said about sestinas in his own sestina:

    This form is a hungry monster.
    Repetition wants something else every time. Six
    mad kings and you, locked in a cell—that’s a sestina.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words, David. I shall have to share the one that inspired me to try this. It’s by Lewis Turco. If I recall correctly, all six end-words are words used in the first sentence (which I did here) and then, as if that wasn’t enough, the first line of each succeeding stanza uses the same six words, but transposed by hypallage. Oh yeah. and I believe it’s in iambic tetrameter(!!!!!). I’ll see if I can find it.

      Thanks for sending that–greatly enjoyed. A hungry monster. So true.


  2. Poems don’t have to be finished – and in fact, I don’t think they ever should be. Poems should go on, like a ripple in a pond. This one has echoes and a history attached to it, and I know more is going on behind the scenes than I’m aware of. Love the depth that brings.

    Great one here, Johnny!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Natalie–
      Yes, there is much going on behind the scenes here, as you say. Funny thing is, I’m still learning about these two. Their story is still unfolding for me. I actually feel like there may be a rather large story here, I just have to let it tell me what it is.
      You always seem to pick up on these things–
      Thank you especially for that!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like this poem. It’s very Rumi-esk with all the longing and oceans.Good work. I haven’t had the stamina to work on a poem longer than a day or two. A years and a half is a long time. I fall at your feet in awe.

    I also had to re-follow your blog today. WordPress… hmmm. I didn’t know you’d posted till I was trying to get my husband’s attention this morning.

    “Not now,” he said. “I’m reading Johnny Crabcake’s poem.”
    “What poem?”
    “The one he just posted.”
    “What one he just posted?”

    You get the drift, eh?

    Thanks for the great poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are, as usual, too kind, Alice. I thank you.

      Rumi-esk? Keep saying that and you’ll give me a fat head.

      To be honest, I’m not sure it has much to do with stamina or as someone else said, patience. The poems simply are or are not ready. I actually think me posting this one shows a bit of IMpatience. I’m just tired of looking at it. Again. Even though it’s not done.

      I am honored by your husband’s words as well. And glad that you have re-followed.
      WP probably just made some “improvements.” 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” said Leonard da Vinci (and a few others since).
    Johnny, this is great. I love it and I love your perseverance. I have worked on a number of haiku on a similar time frame. plus poems of course. what I like about this is that the repetition does not feel laboured rather it adds to the sense of grief and longing until it feels like mental illness which, of course, it is. Dis-ease at least.
    btw a line break has turned up after line 2. don’t you just get infuriated w wordpress at times?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, as much as I’d love to blame WP, that was all my mistake. Wasn’t paying attention when I pasted it in here. Thanks for that–

      Yes, I heard that quote via Paul Valery: “Poems are never finished – just abandoned” or at least a translation of him.

      I have a number of pieces that I’ve been working on for as many or more years and not a few that I feel I published before they were really ready. Plus a couple of book-length projects in potential. I am willing to wait…..usually.

      I thank you especially for your feedback on this. That real obsessive quality about this hadn’t fully revealed itself to me until I read your words. There is definitely much (disease/dis-ease) going on in this story that I have still to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This resonates, like an echo sounder.

    (And I also wondered – what with the poppies, but still probably somewhat tangentially – whether after a year and a half, you might have waited one more day, so as to post it on November 11th. But it was in time for Nov 11th, at least.)


  6. Pingback: Knots | art n poetry n stuff

  7. The idea of composing within the constraints of a sestina which, of course, I had to look up, is mind-boggling. What’s so impressive is that the poem doesn’t feel constrained in spite of the form’s intricacies, instead, the form has helped the poem into being, it seems. And it’s beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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