A sestina about silence (inspired by the Sandman)

If you have seen episode 11 of the Sandman on Netflix, you will have come across a writer who is flooded with ideas – so many ideas that he goes insane. One of those ideas was “a sestina about silence using the key words dark, ragged, never, screaming, fire, kiss

I’ve written a few sestinas so I had to give it a go. If you aren’t familiar with the form, there are articles online about how to create one. It is a fun challenge and I encourage you to give it a try.

Here’s my version.


The hope of a thousand years is in the dark.

I had not planned to come here, ragged

breathless, empty of thought. No, never

in my life would I be found screaming

in a cabin devoid of fire

hoping in vain for an empty kiss


The world began with a kiss

that silently drew two people together in the dark.

only later, by the light of the fire

did they see their faces, how ragged

how disfigured, how screaming

with loneliness in a world that never


showed them love. No, never

in their lives had anyone wanted to kiss

them, for their hearts were screaming

in the silence, in the dark.

They had given up hope, like a ragged

butterfly finally admits it is time for the fire.


But then, by the light of the new fire

burning within them, a love they never

could have imagined bloomed from the ragged

holes in their hearts, a silent kiss

that made their fear of the dark

go away forever, screaming.


Silence is like this, a knowing that is screaming

into the void of existence, a knowing that fire

is the source of all that is dark,

because only there can light never

forget the first kiss

of a life that ragged.


Life that is smooth and easy, not ragged

with the fears of those screaming

fools who forgot what it is like to kiss –

that life is without fire.

Silence can’t be born from easiness, no, never.

It is born from hardship and the dark.


Oh ragged life, oh fire!

Tear forth from me screaming that I will never

forget the kiss of the dark.

Snoopy sestina

Everything was dark.
The winds and rain told her it was stormy.
This promised to be a long and restless night.
Suddenly she heard a shot.
Like a bell it rang,
loud and clear, out.

She didn’t want to go out
into the dark
but then again it rang
in the gloom, stormy
with dread. The shot
only made it worse, this wretched night.

Why did she choose to work at night?
Was it for the money, or because she needed out
of a bad choice, a bad life, one that was shot
to the curb, trashed, leftover, dark
with misery and leftovers, stormy
mistakes and memories? Again it rang.

She’d lost track of how many times she heard it. Yet again it rang
deep in the summer night,
wrenched and wretched, stormy
and sullen. Now the lights went out
and all was dark.
Her hopes of seeing the gunman were shot.

Tonight reminded her of when her father was shot,
so long ago, a thousand miles away. Then too the sound rang
deep into the murky dark
on a wet night
drenched with fear. He too didn’t want to go out
into the dreaded yard, so stormy.

She had to go, stormy
or not, lights or not, fear or not. There was a shot
and she was paid to check it out.
Suddenly her phone rang.
It was the manager that night.
She could stay in. It was just the transformer going dark.

She was grateful in that stormy mess that her phone rang.
What sounded like a shot was only an accident of the night.
A transformer going out makes noises, and then all is dark.


This sestina is based on the famous opening lines from Snoopy. “It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out.” I chose six words that I felt I could work with, and inserted them into the form. Then I wrote the poem. Writing a sestina is a little backwards, because you know what is at the end of the lines instead of at the beginning. It is like having a destination but not knowing how you are going to get there.

Sestinas have a very exacting form. I encourage you to write one. They are always 39 lines, with six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a three line stanza. The final words of each line in each stanza are in this order – 123456. 615243. 364125. 532614. 451362. 246531. In this poem I used 1)dark, 2)stormy, 3)night 4)shot 5)rang 6)out.

The order of the three line stanza is 2_5, 4_3, and 6_1. The first of the two words can be anywhere in the line, but second word must be at the end.

Try to pick words that can be used multiple ways – as nouns or verbs, or adjectives.

Have fun!