what began as year-long challenge has become perpetual until further notice
At the foot of my bed the cat sprawls spectacularly in salubrious
repose, far beyond purring, chasing giant mind-mice while I wake early
to a gospel choir of birds. I’ve come to consciousness in a kind
of excitement that courses with little thrills through a gate
within a-not-quite-remembered dream as fluid as oil
and, curiously, spiced with the sweet aftertaste of raspberry.
Rising, I’ve an urge to bake for the first time since Theo died. Raspberry
scones infiltrate the cottage nooks with their salubrious
delight. I gobble two, butter sliced thick as cheese, lick the oil
as it melts and slicks my fingers, then imagine Grace might come early,
and look up as I hear the drawl of a car idling at the gate.
Grace, my first and last enchantment in this world. Grace, the kind
of person who recalls childhood glee and ensures I do the same. A kind
soul. Sisters, I suppose. I caught her scent the first time, before I turned to see her, raspberry
felt hat in hand, on that first day we met as she waited by a gate.
Her skin luminesced, a salubrious
merging of fine city living and the pastoral lustre of early
evening light. Her bouquet was revealed simply to be rose oil.
Like my own palm, I know her perfume – that divine anointment of oil.
We basked in innocence on the brink of departing from us both in kind,
although she lingered long in her youth when I chose to marry early.
Those times in between have left me alone on my raspberry
farm, marvelling over the years since those salubrious
halcyon days, and now. Of late it is me who waits, my eye on the gate.
The idling car pulls away and I wander in slippered feet down to the gate,
waxing domestic over the removal and prevention of the stains from engine oil
darkening in smudges along the drive. Nothing in the mail box but a salubrious
wad of junk mail that’s pooled for snail-eaten days. Kind
thoughts dissipate, and I shred and throw them for mulch beneath the closest raspberry
canes. Looking up, I see Grace’s car rounding the bend. She’s early!
But the slant of sun through the ghost gums tells me it’s no longer early –
the morning I’ve frittered away. I wait, in dressing gown, by the gate.
Grace grins at me through the windscreen, through lipstick of vivid raspberry.
She’s spruced to the hilt. I swing the gate open for her – it needs oil
at the hinge, (a little like my hip) but leaping through me is a childish kind
of jubilation that everything in this living world is salubrious.
Later, after tea and scones and other such things salubrious, I shower. In the mirror, cleanliness defines my early-gained wrinkles.
“Almond oil,” Grace suggests, from behind the raspberry-marmalade fur of my cat. Kind, though,
reminding me anew that I have time enough on this side of life’s gate.
The Sestina form is a 39 line poem of 6 stanzas, each of which have 6 lines, followed by a 3-line envoi. The words that end each line of the first stanzas are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern (see the image I pilfered from Wikipedia).
The 6 words I’ve picked at random are salubrious, early, kind, gate, oil and raspberry.
The form looks more difficult than it is – worse when you see the structure illustrated – but the hardest part I find is finding the right words so that they don’t become stale. The best words are those with more than one meaning, or a word that is recognised as a noun and a verb. In this case, I think “salubrious” is somewhat overdone…
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