Arnaut Daniel

The Sestina, a lovely name for a lovely, if somewhat tortuous poetic form.  Invented by the French thirteenth century poet Arnaut Daniel and developed by Dante and Petrarch.  The classic sestina has six stanzas of six lines followed by an envoi of three lines.  The last words of each line are repeated in a strict order in the next verse and the final envoi repeats all six key words in a concise summation, normally all written in iambic pentameter.  My own view is that these wonderful forms are as relevant today as they ever were.  Form and metre give the poet a ground against which to push and, interestingly they can open the drawers of the mind in sometimes unexpected ways.  The poet reads the completed poem with a certain apprehension as the dark side of her soul is sometimes nakedly revealed.
I know this dark nymph well but upon this matter I shall mysteriously say no more.

Enjoy, and success to your work.


One day she climbs the steep green hill and looks;

takes in the various boundaries of her world.

That crack-toothed snarl of distant flailing peaks;

beside the purple seed, an ocean dreams.

Some days she’s down so deep it catches at her breath,

on others, light laughter skips within her bones.

She walks like a ghost in fields of whitened bones,

And there’s no doubt she has impressive looks.

But what is it that hastens on her breath?

What quickening clench welds her to her world?

Naked beneath the shivering trees she dreams

of poems whispered from the distant peaks.

She knows one day she’ll climb those distant peaks,

and read those runes carved into the bones.

Perhaps she’ll find the means to feed her dreams-

Those mystic keys for which she roots and looks.

The world of men is yet another world,

the idea nails her-makes her hold her breath.

Her eyes are autumn’s crushed leaves; her breath

catches in the singing troughs and peaks,

and in the pearling of the far-flung world.

She knows the random code of scattered bones

Reveals the name and place for which she looks.

But for now she only digs her dreams.

Her myth will spawn from that womb of dreams.

Within the hurling of its gale-a breath.

That sentinel upon his stone just looks

emotionless upon her sphinx-like peaks.

His eyes, the skinny nails that pierce her bones.

Her refuge? Just this unrelenting world.

This nymph has been a traveller in my world.

I thought her beauty just a passing dream,

but she’s become the marrow in my bones.

The mother of my brood. My blood. My breath.

Together we will scale the dreaming peaks,

and from their heights see how it really looks.

Those looks of sorrow and the brooding bones.

The dreams of distant, lost and lonely peaks.

One sweet breath becomes a world entire.

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