Speaking of creativity and limitations, a sestina places quite a few parameters on the writer. To draft a sestina, you start by brainstorming six words: a, b, c, d, e, f. These words end your lines. Then you write six stanzas with these words as your line breaks in a specific order:

  2.  FAEBDC
  7. AB, CD, EF

The best sestinas don’t scream “I’m a sestina!” They are just meaningful poems that happen to be sestinas. Take a look:


No One Knows

Have you met the girl who always smiles?
The one that no one would ever think was broken.
Did they ever think to ask if she was hurt?
As if her life was complete happiness.
Known to be afraid of the word “love.”
But had somehow kept her facade together.

I watched her as she put herself together.
Wiping away her tears, smiling that sad smile.
As the guy she fell for takes advantage of her love.
Like a puzzle she fixed herself into a beautiful picture, but was ultimately broken.
But she wouldn’t show it; everyone expected happiness.
Like a celebrity, she had to give people what they wanted, even if it hurt.

No one know that she’s hurt.
Neither do they understand why she seems put together.
She’s forced by her own nature to bring happiness.
Only the satisfaction of pleasing her peers makes the sad girl smile.
As she cried, desperation spilled out of her,
like a glass of water that had been broken.
Knowing the only thing to save her was love.

But the sad girl wasn’t ready for love.
The continuous circle of warming hearts and being hurt.
As she sees her mom crying every night, the man who escaped, leaving her broken.
Hoping maybe he’ll come back, bring the family together.
The woman before her eyes, flaunting off that beautiful smile.
Just like her, force her happiness.

The sad girl brought happiness
while it indeed made her scared of love.
That big, fake smile
plastered on her face like clown makeup to hide the hurt.
She held onto thinking it would all come together.
But that idea had slowly gotten broken.

No, the girl wasn’t completely broken
He still had genuine happiness.
Her “perfect” life that she was displaying was well put together.
Only the mother of the sad girl was willing to love.
The crazy, confusing thing leading to being left hurt.
She wanted it, and that made her smile.

Sad girl had such a sweet smile,
but no one knows that it’s broken.
She’d been left to hurt.
But no one knows that through her happiness.
Maybe one day someone will show her love,
that they could finally be happy together.

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 9.15.51 AM

Toy Gun

November 23, 2014, was when they murdered you,
Tamir. You were a child, one who had done nothing
but be born black. You were oblivious to the fact
that you must tread this earth gingerly with skin that color.
One slip-up, and the wariness your skin spawns becomes an alarm call
Issued by a dove who sees a ravenous black bear rather than a raven’s child.

You frolicked through that park with the demeanor of any ordinary child,
a bee-bee gun in your hands, a prize that transformed you
into the undercover soldier you see on tv. Then the call
was made, and your future disintegrated into the nothing
it was never supposed to be. A horizon without a color
or a drop of promising sunlight. The fact

of the matter is, you were doomed the minute the 911-dispatcher mentioned the fact
that you were black to the police officers sent to investigate you, a child
holding a toy gun. Things would have been different if the color
of your skin was white. Your crimson wouldn’t have splashed the grass. You
wouldn’t have fallen, breaths rattling in your chest. Nothing
could be more transparent than what they did. Those policemen answered their own call

of hatred. Their concern wasn’t for the person who first made the 911 call
but for the tone of the suspect’s skin. They would kill for that simple fact.
And so you were shot down, Tamir. You were robbed of your breath and left with nothing
but the feeling of the cold ground beneath you. Forever twelve years old, forever a child.
You didn’t stand a chance. Within two seconds of arriving on the scene, they shot you
down. Scarlet pulsed from black skin, a familiar combination of color.

And there were many, many others who shed color
for you. The blue that gathered in your mother’s eyes when she got the call,
the shock that jolted through your community, flabbergasted that you,
Tamir Rice, was the latest victim of oppression that is obviously a fact.
It only goes to show that no one safe, whether adult or child,
as long as their skin is brown. What else matters to them? Nothing.

And what did the police officers do after they left you bleeding on the ground? Nothing.
No first aid whatsoever. They stood there, radios chattering, eyes a hungry color.
Your demise was locked in their minds, no matter if you were a child.
They were beasts that used their power to heed the call
of bloodthirsty hounds baying for the blood of runaway slaves, in fact.
You see, no matter how far we run they always find a way. This time it was you.

But do not think for one second that you
are forgotten. That you are dust, representing nothing.
You are proof for the fact
that our law enforcement focuses first on color
When they receive a call.
And believe me when I say that we will fight. We will fight for you, child.



strung together by a voice
add another one to sing
two different lines make a harmony
lines in a row forms a song
refer back to your main line of notes- your melody

a message hidden in melody
like fruit, handpicking my notes
like an artist, my canvas is my song
like a carpenter, my tools are my voice
like yin and yang, my perfect balance is my harmony
like breathing, my way to live is to sing

how I feel is how I sing
my heartbeat pumping out my melody
taking mental notes
finding my voice
writing my song

I want to know other people’s song
I want to memorize in what key they sing
I want to hear them voice
their thoughts composed into melody
I want to take notes
on how other lives with theirs creates harmony

the whole world is singing in harmony
each person is a different song
take note
of our differences, sing
to a new beat, learn your melody
find your voice

I will seek to find my voice
in another i will find harmony
I will find someone who knows my melody
my life is my song
loudly, lively I will sing
I will write my own notes

Write your notes and know your voice
sing with another, make a harmony
craft your song, live your melody



She said No.
She watches her hand
as she waits in a room full of men with nothing wear but a robe. Don’t
tell her she was asking
for it, don’t tell her it was her fault.

It wasn’t her fault.
She said No.
When the man is asking
for her hand
She doesn’t understand why he is ASKING, and why he listens to her when she says Don’t.
She begins to shake.

She reached for her shake
accidentally spilling it on a complete stranger, “No really it’s my fault.”
She says as she tries to wipe the ice cream off his shirt with a napkin. “Don’t
worry about it.” He replies with a smile. “No!”
It happens so fast as a hand
covers her mouth and slides under hoodie, “don’t tell me she was asking

for it! Years later she finds a man who thinks she’s worth asking.”
He takes her shaking
and tells her it wasn’t her fault.
She said no.
She did everything right, don’t

tell me she was asking for it! Don’t
tell me that her full length jeans and her oversized sweatshirt, and her bane face were asking
for it. She said No!
Now, standing together, they shake
like a fault
their hands

like continents shuddering with anger towards the people who think it is all right to lay their hands
on people who say don’t
touch me, who are being suffocated by the mantra it was all my fault
I was asking
for it, as they sit there quaking
They said No

They chant together as they join hands
their voices shaking
the earth as they shout, Don’t
tell me I was asking
for it. It wasn’t my fault
I said NO!



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