On Johnson’s Creek: A Sestina
Mid 80’s, late Wisconsin summer day.
You’re male; just one of many crayfish lured
Innately to this shallow, turbid creek.
July’s sweet warmth assures you that you’ll not
Find only sanctuary, but a mate.
And at a human hand-span’s length from tail
To telsun, you’re a splendid prospect: tail
Aloft and eyestalks staunch, you greet the day.
With fierce claws brandished, you await your mate
In burrow’s dark. And nothing could have lured
You from your would-be breeding quarters –not
Until a stealthy stick from o’er the creek
Despoils your warren’s sanctity. The creek,
Its tacit bounty, spurs your nerve. Your tail
Aflutter, claws outstretched, you’re not
Alarmed –you clamp the twig and seize the day.
But then the surreptitious branch that lured
You wrests you from the stream, reveals its mate
Above—a boy who thwarts your quest for mate.
His form obstructs the sun and dwarfs the creek
Below the wooden pier. It seems he’s lured
You here for idle sport; he grips your tail
And flings you hard against the planks. While day
Retreats, light’s sudden ebb arises not
From cosmic cause. The sneering boy (who’s not
Alone –a girl shrinks near her preening mate)
Uplifts his foot and renders blissful day
Brutality. Impassively, the creek
Laps on. Your once resplendent olive tail
Is tattered, shattered by the boy who lured
You, crushed your stately carapace. Though lured
From neural ruination’s throes, you’re not
Yet blind; you see his female friend turn tail.
And I, the girl that boy deems doting mate,
For whom you’re executed by the creek –
I know what cruel conceit is that day.
From where once lured, you sink, potential mate
Undone. Not waiting, brethren flee the creek,
Tails undulating. Silence veils the day.
by Mindy Watson
Editor’s Note: This sestina handles the required repetition with skillful craft, leading the reader from innocence into grim knowledge by the closing tercet.