Sunday, February 26, 2017

Near and far in sestina

Piedmont eye chart

By Moristotle

[This poem was originally published on June 8, 2013.]

Questions have arisen about sunsets.
Why is one beautiful to me but plain
to the next person? Some want horizons
spread out under a big sky at a far
distance over vast space, but I want near
displays set against trees and local piedmont

hills. I love the forests of the Piedmont.
When I saw my first Chapel Hill sunset –
at the end of ’82, or right near –
its radiant vision was nothing plain –
to me – this was a place I could live far
into the future, my life’s horizon.

What would there be beyond our horizon? –
soon we’d leave San Jose for the Piedmont,
to new jobs, new schools, a new climate. So far,
we were thinking sunrises, not sunsets.
To us four Deans life was an open plain,
revealed only as each new thing drew near.

I discovered in ’61 that near
hadn’t been the San Joaquin’s horizon;
it provoked sadness, its wide farming plain.
I was back from Connecticut’s Piedmont,
my college freshman year’s city sunsets,
“home” for summer, missing it from afar.

Thirty years ago June 16 brought far-
off back again, in Carolina. Near
was where I preferred to see the sun set,
sliding off behind a short horizon
like you see in the Eastern Piedmont
but feel sick for on a widening plain.

The reason for my preference is plain.
I don’t see things very well that are far
off. But I had to look around the Piedmont
some years to appreciate being near-
sighted. My eyes require the horizon
close – hills and clouds – for sunrise and sunset.

With clouds in plain view because they are near,
I don’t have to look far for the horizon
here in the Piedmont – my kind of sunset!

Copyright © 2017 by Moristotle


  1. Morris, this may my favorite of all the sestinas you have composed and shared since the posting of my sestina a few years ago (and I have greatly admired many of the others, so this is saying a lot). Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of geographic and aerial imagery with life events, combined with the use of a word I love (Piedmont) and locations in North Carolina that have special meaning to me (and references of your family, which have special meaning), all coalesced with the brilliant sestina form in which you masterfully utilize the poem's potential to restate six words with shifting shades of meaning. Thank-you!

    1. Thank YOU [for the glowing comment]. As I was re-posting this sestina, I could feel the sestina-writing juices building in me, preparing to flow again....