Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A sestina on housing

The writing group I belong to sets difficult challenges. Since I joined quite recently, we've been required to write a pantoum, a triolet, and now a sestina. In the wake of the election, mine turned out to be about housing (see the links at the end for just a few of the stories exposing what far too people are trying to cope with - not to mention the families living in cars and garages).
       The pattern of use for the six repeated end words is correct except for the ending, where I have only two lines instead of the usual three.

Housing crisis

Anne Else

Desperate to escape the broken hovels
where all day long their children lived in darkness
packed into courts and lanes not far from mansions
where clever men drew landscapes bathed in sunlight
they sailed for months packed beside their neighbours
and built their new flimsy wooden houses.

No wonder we are still obsessed with houses.
We turn away from streets of broken hovels
where garages are full of extra neighbours.
We hear that no one needs to live in darkness
since landscapes here are always bathed in sunlight
and fields are filling up with brand new mansions.

Across the harbour in their warm dry mansions
the owners never venture near their houses
where cold and damp rise up despite the sunlight.
Their tenants write new histories of hovels
lighting the gas to keep away the darkness
sleeping in one room just like their neighbours.

Owners quarrel with their neighbours
danger cannot be divorced from mansions
driveway lights cannot dispel the darkness.
Hidden fissures eat into big houses
turning them into different kinds of hovels
worming the walls and letting in the sunlight.

There must be cities where the sunlight
is warm enough to go round all the neighbours
where only history books remember hovels
and families fill the few remaining mansions
where streets are lined with sound and sheltering houses
and no one lights the gas against the darkness.

Here and now the landscape fills with darkness
where coughing children play in sunlight.
The rest of us stay quietly in our houses
too scared to gather up our neighbours
and show them how precariously those mansions
perch on the shaky roofs and walls of hovels.

Houses grow warm when sunlight follows darkness.

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