Ripples of truth

I didn’t think I was even going to attempt a sestina, the dverse prompt, but after reading Kerfe’s beautiful poem, I decided to have a go. It’s an early Medieval form, intended to be sung, so I reckon it ought to have a rhythm. I’ve stuck to the original iambic pentametre and chosen end words that rhyme to give it a bit more cohesion as I can see it’s a form that can easily end up saying nothing at all. I think I still agree that the poet gets more out of this than the reader, but I rarely turn down a challenge.


Ripples spread from pool to pool, unfurl

Like roses blooming when their petals curl

About a raindrop, while the cloudy sky

Drips into pools and always pools reply

With ripples, glittering in the fitful light

Of day, and silver moonlight in the night.


Listen hard and you will hear the night,

Its music play, its dark leaf flags unfurl,

Beneath the dapples cast by soft moonlight,

Where sleeping things in secret burrows curl.

Listen to the owls call, the reply

That ripples in the stream of starry sky.


Before the dawn, the overarching sky

Is wing-flecked, starlit still. The night

Is full of owls; listen how they reply,

When wind blows through the trees, their leaves unfurl,

And whispers day is coming, time to curl

About your young and sleep, to flee the light.


Songs ripple from bird throats to greet the light,

Oceans of sound that fill the morning sky,

Waves of music roll, like breakers curl

And sweep into the shadows left by night.

While one by one the rose petals unfurl,

I stand and listen, learning to reply.


Water falling, feathered flutes reply,

Just listen to the wind, follow the light,

Wisdom of deer and owl will then unfurl,

Written in the cloudless morning sky,

Those stories told by foxes to the night,

The songs sung as the first tide’s wavelets curl.


Among the roses, birds flit, grapevines curl,

A thousand voices ask and I reply,

In this place where time is hung, the night,

The moon and stars, the darkness and the light,

All that ripples, runs, sings to the sky,

I will protect, my mother-strength unfurl.


Though this reply may fade, mist in the sky,

In dazzle-light, lie hidden by the night,

In a petal’s curl you’ll see its truths unfurl.



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

21 thoughts on “Ripples of truth”

  1. It’s beautiful Jane. I admire your knowledge of different forms of poetry. I don’t have the motivation to learn but I’m in awe of what you do.

    1. Thank you, Liz! There aren’t many challenges I take up, not being very adventurous. I like to stick with what I know I can do. I like messing around with words and can usually understand how poetry forms are meant to sound/be written.

    1. Thank you, and don’t mention it 🙂 Having struggled with this form for hours I still think I agree that it’s a lot of hard work just to stay on track. There’s a sense of achievement in having managed it, but it makes a long poem that ends up repeating itself. An editor would probably say cut out four if not five of those stanzas.

      1. I have to say that I am not impressed by, nor feel compelled to like, a sestina – or any other strict form of poetry – simply for its form. Most often, I read a poem in a fluid manner, sometimes learning after reading that it’s a form with particular rhyme and meter. Once I know that, it’s not unusual for me to like it less for the forced rhythm of the meter.

        On the other hand, I can finish a poem and realize I was reading it with the intended rhythm, and I was more than happy with it. Both poems, yours and Kerfe’s, fit that category. Hers is splendid, as is yours.

        As for the repetition, it’s an element of this form. While it can make one sestina unpalatable, it can flow naturally in another. Yours flows perfectly.

      2. Thank you for the kind words, Ken. I agree with you about flow and rhythm and I’ll never understand how people don’t hear when a line doesn’t scan or a word doesn’t rhyme.

        I didn’t warm to this form at all. The forced end word in a forced order doesn’t add anything to the poem at all, except perhaps the way Kerfe seized it, making the green and the trees such an important element of the poem that the repetition is a reinforcement of the idea.

        It’s too long, I think, you’re forced to add stanzas saying more or less the same thing just to finish the pattern. Maybe a really good poet could make each stanza so fresh we wouldn’t notice that the lines all end the same way.

        The sestina is a juggling act, clever but, so what?

    1. I think the Oracle did hand me some of the vocabulary. I don’t recommend it as a form for instant gratification—it’s a slog. Kerfe made a poem out of it, but I found it hard going.

  2. Kudos for writing to a form that isn’t especially to your liking and even ramping it up by choosing to use both rhyme and meter. I think nature themes lend themselves well to this challenge, as yours shows us. I find the challenge of the form fun and, surprisingly, it has helped me, on more than one occasion, to get back into a poetic mindset. I’ve written very little this year because of a myriad of reasons, and now I feel a bit more tuned up and ready to go. Thanks, Jane, for taking up the challenge.

    1. Thanks Victoria. I still don’t like this form, but I can see how it might have worked in its original manifestation. I can’t see it working without a strict metre to be honest. Thanks for the challenge. Now I can say I’ve written a sestina!

    1. Thank you, Rosemary! I’m pleased you like it. I found this a very hard form to like, and a difficult poem to write. Take away the constraints of rhyme and rhythm and there’s not a lot left.

  3. I love the sounds and the music of the night Jane. This line is divine:

    All that ripples, runs, sings to the sky

    Thanks for writing and joining our form challenge. Wonderfully done.

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