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Henri Matisse
Figure à l'ombrelle, 1905

First words after Christmas are difficult. Lethargy has us tightly in its grip. Start early and soon, I was admonished with a few to counteract the effect. So, here I am.

Margot, my wife, celebrated a significant birthday on the 19th of December. I have had the custom of writing something on these occasions so I did again this year. I had pause to reflect on our 38 years of knowing each other. What shape would that take in a poem if I could write it, I wondered. There were so many thoughts and so many things to say. In the end, having read Carol Ann Duffy’s wonderful “A Formal Complaint” I took the form, a Sestina, and what follows emerged. I hope you enjoy reading it.

I wish you all the very best for the New Year against all the odds of a spiralling world.


Sestina for Margot


She sits at the keyboard, a talented

pianist, her hands glide in a caring

thoughtful way as she reads the piece, happy

that her fingers still make that lovely

tone and she is able to show a strength

for which she is known and is pleasing.


Evening finds her in the kitchen pleasing

the family with dishes her talented

cooking produces, all the time caring

that the young ones eat well, are happy

on their way to bed, sharing their lovely

kisses and smiles that give her a strength.


As partner and companion she shows strength

of love and affection that pleases

her. He is awed by the talented

life-long friend who continues her caring

of everything. She creates happiness

in such a way that feels rich and lovely.


She makes life long friends who find her lovely

to be with, who marvel at the strength

of their relationships, which greatly pleases

her sense of a good life, to have talented

people around her who are also caring,

who set out to make others happy.


Her mothering created a happy

home for her daughters who were lovely,

funny and delightful, who could reach a strength

of that was especially pleasing being

to their mother who nurtured their talents

throughout their lives in a way that was caring.


Life has not always been very caring.

Events have challenged the core of her happy

being, shredded the fabric of her lovely

way of doing, threatened her inner strength

created a time that was not pleasing,

which she survived because of her talents.


Such a talented, very lovely

partner so pleases, continues to care,

gives strength to their being, makes them happy.


Peter Clarke 

December 19, 2018