A Sestina Of The Shadows

To know me and understand my true self
One must, without fear, look beyond shadows.
Within the deep, you may see a hidden
Part of me, peering out from the crevice,
Suppressed so only a few truly see
The pain I feel and my own inner fear.

Though not able to describe why the fear.
Why must I defend and protect the self.
There’s nothing shameful for others to see.
Yet I always live among the shadows,
Shoving each truth into the dark crevice,
Working hard for all to remain hidden.

It is much safer to keep things hidden.
The mask prevents one from facing the fear,
Hidden in the treasure of the crevice.
This armored shield protects this inner self.
Time has shown that most don’t look in shadows,
Because one never knows what one will see.

Some facets of life are for me to see
To avoid conclusions of what’s hidden.
It is easier to live in shadows,
Because there’s no reason to feel the fear
Of others judging this inner true self.
Few can reach the deep depths of this crevice.

Only chosen journey to the crevice
Because I make sure they are fit to see
The daunting reflection of their own self,
Unbeknownst to them is also hidden.
I know it’s not only I who’s with fear
Others also peer out from their shadows

For me, sanctuary is in shadows
Of the deep recesses of the crevice.
As long as I am here I have no fear.
I always have my guard. No one shall see.
Only full knowledge reveals what’s hidden.
It is just me who can withstand the self.

One must have full knowledge to understand
Else wise the truth will not be known
And with error conclusions will be drawn.



sestina (also, sextina, sestine, or sextain) is a highly structured poem consisting of six six-line stanzas followed by a tercet (called its envoy or tornada), for a total of thirty-nine lines. The same set of six words ends the lines of each of the six-line stanzas, but in a different order each time; if we number the first stanza’s lines 123456, then the words ending the second stanza’s lines appear in the order 615243, then 364125, then 532614, then 451362, and finally 246531. This organization is referred to as retrogradatio cruciata (“retrograde cross”). These six words then appear in the tercet as well, with the tercet’s first line usually containing 6 and 2, its second 1 and 4, and its third 5 and 3 (but other versions exist, described below).  It is written in iambic pentameter.  This was a poetry form created by Arnaut Daniel.

Sestina system. Graphic showing the system used to switch line endings.
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2 Responses to A Sestina Of The Shadows

  1. Thomas Davis says:

    Wow! A true sestina. These are impossible to write, and I admire anyone with the courage and skill to write one. The facility you have with language is now officially great enough to say that you have the ability to make sense out of lines put into a straightjacket without mangling the English language at all, and if you have accomplished this, then you are a true poet. Many of us do hide within the shadows, of course, and this is a meaningful reflection, but by writing a sestina I am afraid that you have walked out of the shadows into the light.

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