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Winter Sestina

January 28, 2020

Athena Williams

A sestina is a poem of six stanzas of six lines each, with the last word of each line repeated in each stanza. The poem ends with a closing of three lines that tie the six repeated words together. For more information about this form, please see:


Winter Sestina


Staring out the kitchen window

Scrubbing a bowl with her weathered hands –

How long since she has seen the sun?

A robin hops through the snow

Looking for a morsel left behind by the north wind.

He cocks his head as though listening to her whistle.


She squints at the robin. “Don’t forget to whistle,

No matter it’s winter out.” Tapping on the window,

She pauses for a moment to listen to the wind,

Wringing the dish towel in her damp hands.

The sky is a grey sheet piled up with snow,

Blocking out the afternoon sun.

How she misses the cheer of the sun!

Thinking of springtime, she begins again to whistle

Her song of warmth to the swirling flakes of snow

That dance just inches away, outside her kitchen window.

Sitting at the table with her mother’s prayer book in her hands

She doesn’t pray, just listens to the cooing of the wind.

When she was a girl she ran like the wind

To the top of a grassy hill golden in the sun.

Twirling her dress, reaching out her hands,

Laughing at the merry birds and the tunes they whistle.

They peek at her from their tree house window

While petals float through the air like tufts of snow.

Now the days fall fast as snow

And the years blow away like the wind.

The world spins past her window

Moon and sun, moon and sun

A lifetime in the span of a whistle

The stories of the ages in her hands.

She turns in her kitchen and stretches out her hands

Closes her eyes to the storm and the snow

Until she hears the kettle whistle.         

She pours her tea, made of leaves that danced in the wind        

And basked in the glory of the eastern sun –     

The star that refuses to shine into her window.

She calls to spring with a whistle as she works with her hands.

Outside her little window today the world is white with snow,

But soon the wild wind will welcome, once again, the sanguine sun.

The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and used with her kind permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.


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  1. Achingly beautiful – you make this difficult poetic form look as lovely and effortless as a dance. “Days fall fast as snow” – what a gorgeous Image. That last line is as sweet and Echoey as bells ringing.

  2. Athena says:

    Thank you, Alicia! i appreciate your encouragement, as I am truly a beginner at poetry.

  3. Jody Collins says:

    Sestinas are hard to write–well done! I loved these images.

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