Next Line, Please

Chemosabe

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By David Lehman

February 3, 2015


 

 

I couldn’t be more delighted with the entries we are getting for our crowd-sourced sestina. For our second stanza, I opt for Angela Ball’s:

For life off-trend, beyond fashion, Mary K. wore no day dress,
only “gowns.” She larked about chemo: “Any port
in a storm.” When the doctor said, “Bad news,” fear
was a vanity she dismissed: “Anodynes will keep my spirits
lit.” She read scripture, began a memoir, a prose-poem book—
“not illness stuff”—but original woods, night-born foals, evensong.

Angela’s stanza sustains the medical metaphor introduced in stanza one—“chemo,” “port,” “doctor,” “illness”—and complicates it in fascinating ways, literary (“a memoir, a prose-poem book”) as well as religious (“scripture,” “evensong”). The tone is unusual—“she larked”—and there seem to be many possible directions for our next stanza, where the end words must appear in this order:

song
dress
book
port
spirit
fear

Second place: Patricia Smith.

Third place: Rachel Barenblat.

Honorable mention: James the Lesser (the stanza beginning “Trembling…I look up your dress, your address”) and Charice Hoge. These worthy stanzas will all be found in the “Comments” section of last week’s post (“Winning Stanza Refuses to Cave”).

It pleases me to see the cross-exchanges among us, which have the salutary effect of making us realize that we are as much collaborators as competitors.

Here’s our poem in full at this point:

Finally the veins give out and they stick in a port
for the blood draws. Veins cave before the spirit.
Spirit caves before the voice stops the sing-song
of moan and groan that tolls all night like a book
of hymns without words. After a while even fear
caves, like a dress without a body or an address.

For life off-trend, beyond fashion, Mary K. wore no day dress,
only “gowns.” She larked about chemo: “Any port
in a storm.” When the doctor said, “Bad news,” fear
was a vanity she dismissed: “Anodynes will keep my spirits
lit.” She read scripture, began a memoir, a prose-poem book—
“not illness stuff”—but original woods, night-born foals, evensong.

Deadline: midnight, Saturday night, February 6.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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