Watching the lake – sestina for dVerse

And at this moment, nothing is as real
important as this watching of the light
constantly moving on the moving lake,
that shivers like a mighty animal,
its muscles moving underneath its skin,
resting in movement, restless in its calm.

Rivers are smooth as this, but not as calm,
and here the seeming movement is not real,
this water patterned like a dappled skin
is like a mirror held up to the light –
but water can’t be tamed, like some soft animal,
tameness is the illusion of the lake.

What do you think of, looking at the lake?
In this bright sunshine, everything is calm,
there’s barely sound from any bird or animal –
do you believe this calm is truly real?
Wait here and watch the dancing of the light
and feel the sunlight seep into your skin,

then tell me there’s no wildness in this skin
of peace that hovers over this great lake –
thee’s constant movement, dust motes in the light,
and rippling waves make mockery of calm –
it’s all illusion. None of it is real –
you can’t keep water like some fettered animal –

it’s a wild creature, not some quiet, tamed animal
that can be stroked or petted. No, its skin
is scarred and shattered. It’s wild self is real
and underneat the surface of the lake
is something that is far from being calm
something that’s fierce and hidden from the light.

Streams raced to get here, shattering the light
into a thousand pieces. Something animal,
and toothed and clawed, is sleeping. Now it’s calm
enough, but underneath that skin
are muscles tensing, and this restful lake
holds for a moment, then flows on to somewhere real.

In this bright light, we only see the skin
of this wild animal, of this quiet lake.
We breathe the calm, and dream that it is real.

Oh me, oh my. My first sestina. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I’m posting it because I may never have the stamina to write another one. This month’s form for dVerse is the sestina, a form depending on repetition of end-line words in a particular order. It’s also probably the longest poem I’ve ever written. I need to go and lie down now.

November with Yeats 22


‘I wander by the edge
Of this desolate lake
Where wind cries in the sedge:’ —W.B. Yeats

Standing here, at the edge of the lake

I am standing at the edge of the world.


The grass is summer-bleached,

Rattles in the wind like an old woman’s hair,

And the water is dark – darker

Than any domestic thing,

Darker than any secret.


Back in June, the water caught the sky

Like a woman catching her lover’s gaze,

And there were skylarks


But now the water is a pool of night

In this grey, empty morning,

And there are no more birds.


The wind that’s blowing winter in

Has blown them all away,

Down to lower ground,

Swept away like stories.


Day 22 of a November with Yeats. It’s bleak and windy today, you might guess that from this poem.