Broadside #48 – (Fall 2017 / 17.10)

Broadside #48 (Fall 2017 / 17.10)

Sarah Key

Glow Her

      A Forward Sestina

glow, her

glow gone for now
into his roaring fire
my sister moves in and out of
darkness that
needs her flame.
She, yes,

she will
glow bright again. How I search for her
embedded in a shell of
darkness, how do I use
my touch to pry

my fingers loose from her head I rub whatever way
she stills for me.
Darkness wakes my firefly-heart
in her bed I cocoon my
need for her

My rage to eat her mate releases his unh-
ingedness, her tears. His glass-thin skin
she tries so hard not to crack, he
glowers everywhere she steps around his
dark hoarding all the corners. How much

darkness can my tail re-light, how I
need to strike a honeycomb of light for
my jittery sister-bug, then what a
she will un-dim


Author’s commentary: What I love about poetic forms is how the constraints often open up possibilities not originally considered. Wrestling with new forms often surprises me with unexpected metaphors and word choices. When my poetry teacher Sharon Dolin asked our workshop to try a forward sestina, a form which she may have “invented,” I came up with “Glow Her.” The sestina, which dates from the twelfth century, has “particular fascination for Victorian and modern poets, perhaps because it generates a narrative even as it circles back on itself and recurs like a song” (Edward Hirsch, A Poet’s Glossary, p. 570). The biggest challenge with a sestina is that it does not feel forced, so it helps to play with the repetends, as in the case of “glow” transforming into “glowing” and “glowers.” Because the six repeating words make a circular pattern like a coil, the poem enacts the dizzy claustrophobia of the poem’s emotional landscape. The narrator is worried about a family member dealing with mental illness. With the forward sestina, the repeating words appear on the front end rather than the rear of the line, and the first stanza can consist almost exclusively of the repetends. This gives the chosen six even more weight, so one must pick carefully. I think what surprised me was how far those six words took me into a realm of deep feeling and pulled out the urgency of the narrator’s desire to witness the healing of her sister.

Since cataloging her book collection in third grade, Sarah Key has been smitten with storytelling as an art book editor, cookbook author, poet, essayist, and teacher. With eight essays on the Huffington Post, she has also had numerous poems in journals from Poet Lore to Tuesday; An Art Project and inclusion in several poetry anthologies. The students she tutors at a Bronx community college are her favorite teachers.


About bluefifthreview

Blue Fifth Review, edited by Sam Rasnake, Michelle Elvy, and Bill Yarrow, is an online journal of poetry, flash, and art.
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