A Sestina for All Saints (2 of 2)

I plan to write a poem a day again this November, following the prompts from Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog. Today’s prompt is to write a new day poem. I decided to try another sestina, using new and day as two of the six words, and creating a little end rhyme. It may make it a little too bouncy, and a sestina is a little ambitious for my falling-asleep brain, but it’s all in the name of experimentation.

All Saints Day
a sestina
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

As the veil closes on this day,
day between days when I–and you–
go seeking guides and saints, seeking the way
our dear beloveds have wandered through
the parted curtain: Listen, can you hear them say
the names of all the souls they knew

when their own days were green and new?
Now we ourselves slip from behind the curtain of this day
to follow their singing, to hear them say
our own names. Can you feel how they long for you?
How they seek your attention through
this veil that obscures the way?

How silently they guide you when you lose your way?
Our memories are vast pools they bathe in. They renew
their lives within the waters of the dreams we threw
away. Their memories are thin as cobweb, flashing like a day,
then gone. All they have to hold them here is you–
and me–so we must be careful what we say

about the dead, about the ones who’ve gone before. We say
they’re just a vapor, just a mist, a feather that will weigh
less than a living soul. But we know, me and you,
how light is heavy, how old is new,
how they continue to exist beyond their days,
and how the weight of our own memories brings them through.

And so we speak the names of saints and our beloveds, through
the long nights of the Hallowed Days, we say
their names, we keep them real, we mark the days
and help them through the veil to find their way
back to our joyful tables, set with bread and wine and new
candles. Look how they glow and hover around you.

I will keep this night along with you
and listen as the music whispers through
the mists that rise across the veil, new
pathways drawn between us. We can say
that finally we have found our way
between the curtains and into a new day.

Tomorrow you will step into another day,
find the way between, the way through, find your way
into a new dawn, full of light. You’ll have new names to say.


I needed a brain diversion today, and so I pulled up two Rilke autumn poems and translated them into English. I had forgotten how satisfying translation is.

An Autumn day (Herbsttag)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translation by E. A. Weaver-Kreider

Lord: it is time. The summer was so long.
Lay your shadow upon the sundials,
and set the winds loose upon the fields.

Command the final fruits to ripen;
give them yet two southerly days,
urge them to fullness and coax
the last sweetness into the earnest wine.

Whoever has no home, has now no time to build.
Whoever is alone, will stay alone a while,
will awaken, read, write long epistles
and in the alleys here and there
will wander, while the leaves drift by.

Fall (Herbst)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translation by E. A. Weaver-Kreider

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far away,
as if they’ve withered in the distant gardens of the heavens;
they are falling in the gesture of denial.

And through this night the heavy Earth is falling
away from all the stars in lonely space.

We all are falling. This hand falls.
And look at the other one: falling is in everything.

And yet there is One who holds all this falling
in infinitely tender hands.

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