Down the river, or: The fall

A ‘Sestina’

it had been a good run,
but, resigned, he now set
his shoulders, ready to take
the fall for her; a final stand;
sighing, he took his turn
and let the chips fall

through the window, he watched the leaves fall
over the meadow; no place to run;
nowhere to turn;
nothing for it; his fate had been set
in motion long ago at that newspaper stand
when she'd told him she was on the take

they'd agreed to take
it slow, but he'd never expected to fall
so hard for her; he didn't stand
a chance; he should have run
at the very start, when he'd first set
eyes on her and life had taken an irreversible turn

that misty morning, he'd watched her turn
away from him; take
a Playboy off the shelf; set
her coins down, letting them fall
on the counter; and then run
her fingers through her golden tresses by the stand

"c'mon, c'mon, stand
down, guys,"  he heard himself say, "let me turn
my cards over; she didn't run
the table - I did! take
me - I'm the..." BANG! BANG! she watched him fall,
full of holes, onto the Meteorite Poker Set

her soft, sultry mouth set,
she recalled waiting at that stand
for her soon-to-be fall
guy, fully intending to turn
on him after the big take,
rather than live the rest of her life on the run

it'd been exhilarating; all that fall, they'd had a great run;
but now it was over; the don's men watched her stand coolly and take
her winnings; she would be set for life until it came her turn


In the sestina form, instead of using rhyming verse, the poem makes use of repeating words. There are six lines in each stanza, each of which ends with a different word. Those six words are then reused at the end of each line in the subsequent stanzas, but the order of each word changes.

The patterns of word repetition are as follows, with each number representing the final word of a line, and each row of numbers representing a stanza:

1 2 3 4 5 6
6 1 5 2 4 3
3 6 4 1 2 5
5 3 2 6 1 4
4 5 1 3 6 2
2 4 6 5 3 1

The sestina form has one other element to it: it ends with a three-line stanza called an envoi. The envoi is not as strict as the rest of the sestina when it comes to the requisite word pattern. It is usually ECA or ACE. The other three end words (BDF) must be included within the three lines of the envoi as well.

Let’s write poetry together!

When it comes to partnership, some humans can make their lives alone – it’s possible. But creatively, it’s more like painting: you can’t just use the same colours in every painting. It’s just not an option. You can’t take the same photograph every time and live with art forms with no differences.

Ben Harper (b. 1969)

Would you like to create poetry with me and have a completed poem of yours featured here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish? I am very excited to have launched the ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative and am looking forward to meeting and creating with you… Check it out!

20 thoughts on “Down the river, or: The fall”

  1. The sestina was a bugaboo for me for years – I finally overcame my fear of the sestina (and I lost my stutter when saying the name) . This one is delightful even if the end is not a happy one for the fall guy!

  2. What a beautifully written poem David. Youโ€™ve used the same words in a different context every time. ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿผ

    1. ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป Abi ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ’œ ~ I don’t have a particular relationship with golden tresses… but the words fit the photo I found!

      1. ๐Ÿ˜‚, you have such a vivid imagination Poet.
        Speaking like a lover
        Indeed the words fell perfectly in place illustriously bringing forth the golden tressels.
        And you have done justice to the reason for the season

Leave a Reply to koolkosherkitchen Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s