The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina

By Miller Williams

Somewhere in everyone’s head something points toward home,
a dashboard’s floating compass, turning all the time
to keep from turning. It doesn’t matter how we come
to be wherever we are, someplace where nothing goes
the way it went once, where nothing holds fast
to where it belongs, or what you’ve risen or fallen to.

What the bubble always points to,
whether we notice it or not, is home.
It may be true that if you move fast
everything fades away, that given time
and noise enough, every memory goes
into the blackness, and if new ones come–

small, mole-like memories that come
to live in the furry dark–they, too,
curl up and die. But Carol goes
to high school now. John works at home
what days he can to spend some time
with Sue and the kids. He drives too fast.

Ellen won’t eat her breakfast.
Your sister was going to come
but didn’t have the time.
Some mornings at one or two
or three I want you home
a lot, but then it goes.

It all goes.
Hold on fast
to thoughts of home
when they come.
They’re going to
less with time.


Forgive me that. One time it wasn’t fast.
A myth goes that when the years come
then you will, too. Me, I’ll still be home.


I first found this poem when I was looking for example to teach a writing class about sestinas. The sestina is a challenging form, one of my favorites to write, and I was amazed by what Miller Williams did with it.


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4 thoughts on “The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina”

  1. I officially stand, well, sit… in awe of Miller’s tapestry of a sestina. Wow. The sense of time and navigation through it are palpable. Lovely.

  2. That’s amazing. I’ve never seen a shrinking sestina before. I have to admit I was so dazzled by the mechanics I had a hard time actually reading it for comprehension.

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