Here's the draft:
Do What You Can
Tuesday's assignment: Write a sestina,
a sextet of chosen words at the end
of each line, over and over. Now bend
the meanings, keep the music, make it lean,
lead the reader. A 36- line form,
it travels on and on, a rushing swarm
of words. This repetition makes a swarm,
the same words flying through the sestina
like birds above a field. You need to form
new images, discoveries to the end.
Take a deep breath, take another, don't lean
on your elbows, don't roll your eyes. Just bend
your creaky old knees a few times, then bend
your brain to the task, enter the wild swarm,
follow what narrative you can, and lean
against experience, ride this sestina
like a greedy crow to the corn row's end.
Feel the summer wind in your head and form
the thinking you've hidden in black wings, form
dreams buried by night. Maybe you land, bend
to the earth, dig with your fingers to end
the work, the guessing, the questions' cold swarm.
Do what you can to find that sestina--
don't scrimp and let your harvest come lean.
When you started, the first few words looked lean
as a fence post and fettered by this form,
but see--you're nearly through this sestina.
You've written your way around the last bend,
scribbled harder into the stanza's swarm.
Flex your hands. You can almost taste the end
of the afternoon when you'll reach the end
of this poem. Dusk will fall and you can lean
into evening, forget about the swarm,
loosen your dinnertime thoughts from the form,
say hello to your beautiful wife, bend
her ear, tell her about this sestina
while in the lamplight gnats swarm and the form
rests. You bend your heart, lean into her hair,
end the evening, start your next sestina.