There and Back Again: Home Grown

They’ve been writing sestinas all month over at Tweetspeak Poetry. Maybe you remember them from literature class. Sestinas are those 39-line poems with all the structure and form of a contract, but with the rhythm and soul of a conversation.


That’s why I wrote one today, to be part of the conversation. Tweekspeak Poetry and theHighCalling.org are teaming up for a community writing and photography project to write sestinas and take photos of conversations. I’m not much of a photographer, but I do fancy myself a writer. So, I decided to write a sestina.

Easy peasy, right? Well, no. I have tried on more than one occasion in the past to write sestinas, all rather unsuccessfully. The difficulty is in the form. The poem is six stanzas of six lines each with repeating end words. Then, the end words are combined in the last three lines. So, you choose six words and repeat them as end words over and over in preset patterns. If the first six lines end in A, B, C, D, E, and F, then the second six lines end with F, A, E, B, D, C. Then, the next six end in C, F, D, A, B, E, and so on. Read this great post by David Wheeler to see more on the structure.

A few weeks ago, I confided in LL Barkat, High Calling editor and purveyor of all things Tweetspeak, that I was stumbling over the sestina, and she had a little advice. Write about a place, she said. Choose words that can be used as both noun and verb. And definitely, absolutely, positively use a pen and paper.

“You can’t write a sestina on a keyboard,” she said – or something to that effect.

So, I decided to write about the place I know best: my home and garden. I chose six words that seemed versatile yet meaningful: bank, stone, home, garden, wait, friend. And I opened up my journal, pen in hand. After a little writing and rewriting, here’s what I came up with.

Home Grown

At last, after a long day, I am home.
Sitting at a desk all day, the wait
knotted up in my neck, I think of my garden.
Growing food is like money in the bank,
And the hoeing, digging, laying stone –
Like caring for an old friend.

I like to invite my friends
to come share a meal in my home,
a meal from the garden: stone
soup. 1. A little of this. 2. A little of that. 3. Wait.
My friends have come to bank
on that kind of meal if I am cooking from the garden.

We eat while swapping stories of the garden.
I’m not the only clodhopper. One friend
is growing eggplant. “Bank
on some ratatouille, and home-
made bread at my place next week.” “Wait,”
I say, “That’s my specialty.” We laugh. Glass tones

echo as we toast. “To the hearthstone!”
The comfort of home, the abundance of the garden,
What more could we want? Oh wait.
The cucumbers. She grew them herself, another friend.
Gathered them up and brought them from her home.
She grows them in the back, along the bank

of the storm drain. The bank,
there in the back, tapering down into grass and stone,
keeping the water away from her home.
But also away from the garden.
“It’s been so dry,” says my friend.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve had to outwait

Nature. Just last Winter, in the dead weight
of stark cold, we dreamed of Spring. We banked
on it. In the wet, wet Spring, we longed for our friend,
Summer. Now, with Fall just a stone’s
throw, and us, still enjoying the garden,
we try just to be content, feel at home.

Each season we wait, our chins to the grindstone,
Forgetting to bank the blessings of now, storing food from the garden,
sharing meals with friends, finding a way to be at peace at home.

Go THERE or THERE, (TS Poetry or theHighCalling.org) and then come back HERE again!


Join me for regular jaunts around The High Calling network, randomly visiting fellow bloggers, soaking up their words and ideas, and then coming back here to write about them from my perspective.

Each Thursday, consider going “There and Back Again” yourself. It’s simple.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • reply Maureen ,

    What a wonderful write! Bringing a sestina to a close is a great feeling, isn’t it.

    I’m glad you took L.L.’s advice. (Maybe some day I’ll confess to her that I can’t write with a pen and paper anymore.)

    • reply Patricia ,

      Charity, I loved this. I’m not a poet and don’t understand the technique, but the prose is so, so lovely and begged me to come sit at your table.

      Thank you.

      • reply Sheila ,

        Amazing work, Charity.

        I am waiting for the bravery to return to poetry. Your courage inspires me. But I’m more of a villanelle kind of girl.

        • reply Sandra Heska King ,

          Wonderful! I’m struggling with this. You gave me hope.

          • reply Glynn ,

            A sestina is WORK! And you did it well, well indeed.

            • reply path of treasure ,

              I love your conversation, sharing food from the garden with friends. Home grown food is the best and I feel it in your poem.
              This is very clever: “glass tones” for “stones”.
              I also love the last line “finding a way to be at peace at home”.
              I am new to sestinas, too, I’ve tried 3 recently. I think yours flowed so nicely, just like a conversation I was listening to.

              Thanks for stopping by my blog and your comment. Nice to meet you!

              • reply Alida ,

                wow! You really did a great job!

                • reply Megan Willome ,

                  You did it! And you included conversation–excellent!

                  • reply L.L. Barkat ,

                    You have OUTDONE yourself!! 🙂 I knew you could do it. I love the way you switched the words back and forth (wait, weight / hearthstones, stone soup and so many more).

                    I see a little cataloging in here too. And some internal rhymes. You are gathering up poetic techniques so beautifully, bit by bit. 🙂

                    Really enjoyed this.

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