Saturday, May 05, 2007

Algebraic Sestina for the Ocean

Daytona Beach 15 Oct 05 at Sunrise
October 15, 2005: Daytona Beach, Florida, at sunrise.

"Sestina is a poetry form that sounds too much like algebra to me."
-- Colleen, in a comment accompanying this entry.

I saw that after I had followed the link from her homage to the ocean to Sunday Scribblings and had already decided to join in with an ocean entry.

I thought: Why not do both?....

Algebraic Sestina for the Ocean

To undertake Pythagorean feats,
Or write about subtractions in the sand?
I sit, Muse cleaved in two by bladed thoughts:
The sea in one, the other stirred by math.
Quadratic ebb and flow, perhaps, a line
And then a grid, new theorems taking form.

I've sat on rock walls, mesmerized by form,
The ocean glass, then froth. Watched diving feats
Of pelicans and gulls. A jetty line
Breaks water from its anchor in the sand,
Grows slippery in spume, stones piled in math
That measures splash, a road of dammed-up thoughts.

On calmer nights I float on buoyed thoughts,
The ocean of my brain a shapeless form
Whose neurons spark a phosphorescent math,
As though the patterns there were schoolgirl feats
Awaiting pencil tests, my gritty sand
Small points of reason straining toward a line.

I cannot fight the straight horizon line
That keeps its distance from my tide-pulled thoughts.
What drops have formed my soul? What grains of sand?
What salt-encrusted air affords me form
That twists me toward imaginary feats
Whose physics fall away? Clear pools of math

Dry up into the simpler shells of math:
The chambered Nautilus, its life a line
Curved into mortal coil. No startling feats
But life and death, the transience of thoughts.
A spark of poem that struggles toward its form.
These scattered words dull irritants. Like sand.

So let's start over. Here's a bucket, sand.
We're in a world where all we know of math
Is counting toes while piglets take their form.
Sharp bird tracks sink a many-crisscrossed line
As surf rolls over mud to clear our thoughts
And we begin anew. Our greatest feats

Not feats of formulae. My tattered thoughts
Refuse to walk a line, or take a form.
Let me be sand. My heart will do the math.

Dorchester Bay, Massachusetts 6
Dorchester Bay, Massachusetts. After a heavy snowfall one winter, Mary and I snowshoed up and down Carson Beach.


Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

This is excellent, you've used the form really well and the result is very thought provoking.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Traveler said...

Loved it!

11:39 AM  
Blogger bjbw said...

Breathtaking. I very much enjoyed that poem. Well done.


6:58 PM  
Blogger megan said...

well done...two ideas braided together by attentive word play...enjoyed it!

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your sestina!

And it makes me happy that you were inspired by both poetry AND math. Math factored into a poem of mine recently. Though I don't like it much at all.

Thanks for writing it.

~Mara (Colleen's friend)

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I do agree that there is a poetry to math, as the nautilus spiral attests to. This poem feels like the muse and math as the ocean and shore meeting. Sestinas and other poetry forms seem rich and dense to me. I have to read them over slowly more than once, as opposed to free form, much of which can take me up like a kite.

Wonderful poem and convergence!

2:07 PM  

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