Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Zoe Versus, In Verse: A Sestina on Sleep

For this week's installment, I wrote a sestina. 
I'm not one for poetry, as will shortly become clear. If I ever win any poetry awards, it'll be for writing bad poetry, at which I excel. But as Nietzsche was fond of saying, Play to your strengths, ubermensch. Or something similarly exhortatory and German. 
When you stare into a sestina,
the sestina stares back at you.
Here's Webster's definition of a sestina: "a lyrical fixed form consisting of six 6-line unrhymed stanzas in which the end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the following five stanzas in a successively rotating order and as the middle and end words of the three verses of the concluding tercet." Got that? Throughout history, sestinas apparently served as complaints, which of course only encourages me.
For my theme I decided to explore Zoe's rocky relationship with sleep and how this negatively impacts my own relationship to same.
For my six words I chose: (1) tears, (2) sleep, (3) mine, (4) juice, (5) dreams, and (6) demands.

To Sleep or Not to Sleep? (Spoiler: It's the Second One)

She entered the world in an abundance of tears
One of many poets rolling over in
their graves in reaction to my sestina.
In those halcyon days she seemed not averse to sleep
Soon enough she spoke her first word: "mine"
Followed by repeated requests for juice
Never again was I to enjoy uninterrupted dreams
Because 24/7 I was slave to a toddler's demands.

Ever-evolving and capricious were this toddler's demands
At first it was hard to withstand her tears
Time to myself? The stuff of dreams
Dreams I never had because to dream you needed to sleep
She didn't seem to need much herself. Possibly because of all the juice?
Inconvenient truth---the fault was all mine.

What could I do with this sleepless child of mine?
I had to admit a certain inconsistency in response to demands
Sometimes I bribed her with Umizoomi or juice
Sometimes I withheld these until she shed tears
Many an evening I'd count the hours till she'd go to sleep
Would she stay in her bed until morning? In my nonexistent dreams.

Each night that my head hits the pillow, waiting on dreams,
I vow that eight hours rest will finally be mine
She's at her cutest when she finally submits to sleep
Then it's hard to recall the waking person who demands
More TV, more playtime, unnecessary Band-Aids. Soon enough her voice tears
Through the silent apartment: "Mommy! You wake up! You sit with me! Juice!"

Maybe it's good I don't sleep.
This would give me nightmares.
She really really likes juice
I'm convinced that apples are pulped in her dreams
I imagine Granny Smith faces blurred by tears
Lack of zzzz's contributes to this mad fancy of mine
Medication? Is that what the occasion demands?
I down shots of tequila and then collapse into sleep

Five a.m. and I'm woken from sleep
by a tiny voice shouting in my ear, "I want juice!"
I tumble out of bed to face a new string of demands
from a short person who features largely in short dreams.
She leads me to the kitchen, her hand in mine
The overhead light makes my eyes fill with tears

The idea of going back to sleep is the embodiment of my dreams
As she sits on the couch guzzling juice, I can't believe she's all mine.
It's my misfortune that she demands payment in tears.

Zoe: 34; Universe: 0


  1. I mean, this is WAY more impressive, but I think it's cool that we both did a little "poetry" on our blogs this week. ;-)

  2. Well, I must be an idiot because I swear I'd never even heard the word sestina before today. At first I thought it was "siesta" which I am firmly behind. I read the definition 4 times but I'm still not sure I grasp it.
    YOUR sestina, though, is fantastic!! (and I am taking you at your word that is *is* a sestina because I remain a bit stumped) many other blog posts today are going to make me laugh and smile...and also teach me something? NOT MANY!! Well done!! :D --Lisa

    1. Haha, thanks. The history of this is I went to school with a girl who was a poet and told the class she liked to write sestinas and we all had question marks over our heads. Then when she explained what they were I thought it was the most ridiculous thing ever. So of course I had to write one. I definitely prefer siestas.

  3. "Spoiler: It's the Second One" made me laugh out loud! My other favorite line: "I'm convinced that apples are pulped in her dreams." I am pretty sure you have a talent for this, Liz! Oh, and thank God for Umizoomi! It's one of the only shows that both of my boys can agree on--and that can be priceless when I need a moment!!

  4. Thanks! Yes, Umizoomi works miracles. Thank God your boys agree. That's an issue I don't face.