May Day. That’s the title of a sestina sent to me by poet Vonnie Thompson.
Thompson writes: I’m not much for forms. I played around with them in college a bit only because I was required to, but found them too restrictive for my stream of consciousness writing style… As I am entering a new phase in my writing life, however, I am finding myself more drawn to the structure and challenge of forms. The more I learn about them, the more I learn where to apply them. I find that sestinas are particularly good for telling a story or describing some sort of short scene, as in “May Day”.
I have often observed May Day, or Beltaine, by dancing in the dawn, greeting the sun with music and bells and fun. It’s an old tradition that I became familiar with when I was participating in Renaissance Faire and hanging out with a bunch of crazy Morris and English Country dancers. Thought I don’t live close to any of my old dancing friends, I still love to greet the dawn on May Day.
Such a lady in your skirt,
dip and stomp and jump and swirl,
budding, just short of full flower,
the glow in your cheeks invokes the warm
hint of dawn and the patterns repeat
as you dance to raise the sun.
Night sky is teased by the promise of sun
as bells sing a chorus from beneath your skirt
at every turn, a song the pipes repeat.
Orange and pink merge and swirl
petals of sunlight unfold over the horizon, warm
first bloom of a dawn flower.
This is a dance for the young, flowers
and dancers, each dewy face raised to the sun,
twined together in ancient patterns, warmed
by May’s first dawn, like a sweet virgin kiss skirting
a cheek, setting young hearts aswirl
and souls longing for repeat.
Kerchiefs flying faster still, this first love repeats
with every pass, dancers joyfully flinging flowers,
bagpipes skirling, hands and feet and bodies swirling
an invitation to the young rising sun—
join the dance! bursting rays skirting
the horizon, turning cool night-blue skies warm.
The dancers and the dawn an invocation of warmth,
Crescendo tops crescendo repeating
this ancient May Day call, rays winding round skirts
to pounding rhythms, shouts, flowers
now dry of dew launched high into building sunshine
until dancers and sun and dance blur and swirl.
And with a last triumphant shout, these swirling
ancient patterns ebb and stop, warm
bodies glorious in the bursting rays of the sun,
sure in the promise summer’s repeat.
Each dancer offers a final flower
to the Sun, bowed low over stilled skirts.
You give your skirt a final swirl,
flowers gone, cheeks warm,
and repeat in a whisper your prayer to the Sun.