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Doomed Insurgent - Sestina

by WeepingWisteria

Hello, everyone! This poem is a Sestina, a French style of poetry that originated in the late twelfth century. If you'd like to learn how to write a Sestina, you can learn how here.

Doomed Insurgent

I smell blood and bitterness on the wind
Tales of hearts ground and spirits crushed
Broken fingers and eyes full of tears
Muffled cries for help under the cold concrete
Souls wrapped in heavy iron chains
Hidden, rotten corpses in the ground

Trapped by scientists treading new ground
Their subjects battered and bruised by the wind
My wrists are too weak for their tempered chains
The bones in my arms have all been crushed
They wanted to replace my flesh with concrete 
Switch sulfuric acid with my saltwater tears

But I am not satisfied to just choke on my tears
I want to scream until there are cracks in the ground
I want the strength of ten tons of concrete
I want my voice to be faster than the wind
But I know I am doomed to be crushed
To have my voice box wrapped in hot chains

Oh, to have the power to break these chains!
To have scowls and growls instead of tears
To breathe without my throat feeling crushed
To not choke on the dust of their burial ground
There is nothing but knives in the wind
The water laced with setting concrete

But, the evidence of their conspiracy isn't concrete
Their loopholes keep the government in chains
Their contempt for life poisons the wind
Even with misery, their eyes are devoid of tears
They are demons from deep within the ground
Here to keep humanity forever crushed

And that is what keeps my heavy heart crushed
The weight of their sins, back broken with concrete
I'll soon be nothing but a coward in the ground
My burial shroud will be nothing but chains
I shall die choking on my corrupted arsenic tears
Until my soul crumbles into the wind

A victim left on the ground, broken and crushed
The bitter wind howling over the red-stained concrete
Throat torn open by chains; face dissolved by tears

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Points: 346
Reviews: 2

Wed Sep 21, 2022 11:13 pm
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JMurphy wrote a review...

The use of sestina for this one is quite intriguing! I’m unsure whether this is intentional or not and maybe I’m just making myself sound a tad silly, but the use of the sestina format for this poem makes it all the more downhearted, as the dying speaker is absorbing their surroundings and situation into their mind as they fade away into death. Repeating what is around them and what they are perceiving as they pass, ingraining it into themself, as this is it. This is the end. This is where they shall die, and it is the last thing they shall ever be able to describe. Other than that, I think it is a pretty neat little poem, so props to you on that. Also, sorry for this, but are the “hot chains” described in the third stanza literal or figurative? Earlier, you describe scientists performing cruel experiments and I would appreciate the clarification as to whether the hot chains wrapped around the voice box were a reference to that or just figurative. :>

WeepingWisteria says...

The hot chains around the voice box bit was figurative. It%u2019s supposed to represent the inability to speak.

JMurphy says...

Ahhhh. That was my guess but I still wanted to know for sure :]

WeepingWisteria says...

Yeah, of course. :]

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6 Reviews

Points: 276
Reviews: 6

Tue Jan 18, 2022 11:23 am
naazmemonn wrote a review...

the use of your vocabulary in this piece is really intriguing. the excessive use of the word concrete and crushed could have been avoided, but i am a budding writer just like you. i like the theme you have tried to adopt in the piece. it is not everyones piece of cake to write about darkness swiftly. it really has to flow. i think you have somewhat achieved that here. visuary writing seems to be your forte. im impressed

WeepingWisteria says...

Hello! The repetition of the words wind, crushed, tears, concrete, chains, and ground were a part of the poetic style I used. As I said, this poem is a sestina were you repeat the ending words in different orders. I get that it%u2019s not everyone%u2019s cup of tea, and I won%u2019t blame you if you find it too repetitive. However, in order to stay true to the style, it was very necessary.

naazmemonn says...

well i learn something new everyday. thank you for pointing that out

WeepingWisteria says...

Of course! At the beginning of the poem, I posted a link to a good website page about Sestinas if you would like to learn more.

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455 Reviews

Points: 22098
Reviews: 455

Mon Jan 17, 2022 11:29 pm
Hijinks wrote a review...

Hi there AlmostImmortal!

Props to you for writing a sestina! It's a form I've wanted to try for a while now but I've frankly been intimidated by the structure, so I think it's really impressive that you wrote (quite successfully!) one of these.

On first read-through, I can definitely see the horror aspects of this poem coming through. If I had to put a finger on it, I'd say this has some pretty strong Frankenstein vibes? The very literate and slightly formal style of the writing also reminds me a bit of a novel, like Rook noted in their review. Despite that though, I'm not super inclined to read the poem literally I don't think. Lines like "They wanted to replace my flesh with concrete / Switch sulfuric acid with my saltwater tears" seem to me to be metaphorical descriptions of what the narrator's oppressors want to do, since I can't see any practical reason for them wanting, or being able, to actually do either of those things.

I really, really love the effect of the repeated words you chose (wind, crushed, tears, concrete, chains, ground) - I think you chose words that set a very distinct mood, while also being very versatile so that none of the lines sounds forced. It also creates some kind of ironic (for lack of a better word) connections between some images and ideas, for example "They wanted to replace my flesh with concrete" followed by "I want the strength of ten tons of concrete" uses "concrete" for a negative and then a positive description.

I agree with Rook, too, that you have some incredibly vivid images nestled in this poem. Some of my favourites would be "There is nothing but knives in the wind / The water laced with setting concrete", "My burial shroud will be nothing but chains" and "Throat torn open by chains; face dissolved by tears". I love how specific, unique, and emotional they are! Like people often talk about the wind being sharp or having a bite, but "knives in the wind" takes that to a whole new level and is just such an intense image.

In terms of actual critiques, I just two main ones that kind of tie into each other: punctuation + "list lines". The first one is pretty obvious - it looks like you've chosen to not end any of the lines with punctuation (except for "Oh, to have the power to break these chains!" which as a result stands out quite a lot and conveys a lot of volume with the exclamation mark). I don't think that's a bad choice; you use the punctuation to set a tone both visually and grammatically, which is great. I just find that, because of how you've worded or structured some of the lines in this poem, it ends up making it feel like you're just listing descriptive nouns in some spots. For example, the opening stanza:

I smell blood and bitterness on the wind
Tales of hearts ground and spirits crushed
Broken fingers and eyes full of tears
Muffled cries for help under the cold concrete
Souls wrapped in heavy iron chains
Hidden, rotten corpses in the ground

If I just play around with it a bit, it easily turns into this:
I smell:
- blood and bitterness on the wind
- Tales of hearts ground and spirits crushed
- Broken fingers and eyes full of tears
- Muffled cries for help under the cold concrete
- Souls wrapped in heavy iron chains
- Hidden, rotten corpses in the ground

And I think you'll see what I mean by "list lines". Potentially that was an intentional choice in how you chose to structure the stanza? And it is a bit of a personal taste thing, so that's fair enough if that's the case. I find though that it really slows down the pace of the poem and makes me feel a bit dredged down in all the images without any clear action or narrative, if that makes sense. Don't get me wrong, the images are all fabulous (!), but when they're listed like this I think it takes away some of the oomph. I would suggest playing around with how you structure the lines and how they flow into one another, and potentially even experimenting with a bit of punctuation here and there.

One other small nitpick I would have for you is that you use the words "they" "them" "their" throughout the poem pretty amibigously, and it's hard to tell in a lot of case who "they" are (ie the oppressors, the narrator/part of the narrator? or other victims like the narrator). So I would perhaps suggest seeing if you can be a bit more specific in some places.

Overall though, I really enjoyed reading and diving into this sestina! I think you used the structure of the poem to compliment the content of the poem superbly. You did a great job of setting a kind of nightmarish, surreal vibe, and with fabulous imagery to boot. And I enjoyed the sound devices you smattered throughout, ex "blood and bitterness", "scowls and growls", "demons from deep", "ground / my burial shroud". They added nicely to the flow and mood, and I think if read aloud they would make this poem a very enjoyable performance.

I hope this review proves useful for you! Let me know if you have any questions at all about anything I brought up.


WeepingWisteria says...

Thank you for the wonderful, in-depth review. I do find it incredibly helpful, and I%u2019m glad you enjoyed it.

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956 Reviews

Points: 258
Reviews: 956

Mon Jan 17, 2022 2:50 pm
vampricone6783 wrote a review...

What a dark and detailed poem! The words and descriptions you used were very detailed and I could really picture it in my mind.Being completely helpless and forced into the ground is not fun at all.This was my first time reading a sestina,by the way.I loved it! So horrific and fun to read! Good job! I hope you have a wonderful and nice day and night.

WeepingWisteria says...

Thank you! You too.

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621 Reviews

Points: 4984
Reviews: 621

Mon Jan 17, 2022 4:58 am
Rook wrote a review...

I really enjoy sestinas. They're so difficult yet satisfying to write.
This was a cool poem in that it felt like reading a dramatic part of a novel. Like, it didn't feel relatable enough to me to connect with the narrator really, but I felt like the narrative stakes were high and there was a lot of intrigue going on. It was interesting! I don't read a lot of poems like that. I'm much more used to a poem that sort of considers a small subject in relation to a big one and doesn't have very much action.
The sheer amount of action, violence, darkness, pain, etc. in this poem made it feel a bit... angsty I guess? But also, I am probably not the intended audience for this poem.
I enjoyed many technical details about it though! I felt like you had a good rhythm going, the words propelling the reader through the poem. None of your lines felt imbalanced, either too long or short. You had a lot of very visceral imagery and although the actual imagery you described was not necessarily my taste, you did a great job at including lots of specific details. Like a voicebox wrapped in hot chains? What a strong image! On the other hand, there were a few others like a soul crumbling in the wind that felt a little too abstract to me. I feel like if you can't actually picture exactly what something would look, feel (as in touch, not as in emotions), taste, smell, or sound like, it might be a bit too abstract. This is why I like reading poems about peaches and skylights and such rather than poems about love and war and pain. A poem about a peach can also be a poem about pain, but it is a poem that uses a subtle touch in making that metaphor that really delights me. I recommend reading lots of great poetry! You clearly have a way with words and a good sense of how they fit together! I think you just need more exposure to great poetry and more practice writing it yourself and I think you'll find yourself quickly improving. Even if you don't like the same kind of poetry that I like and you have no desire to improve in the way that I hope you do, reading and writing more is always the best advice!
I hope this was at least somewhat helpful! I always worry I'm being too harsh in my reviews but just know that I spend time writing because I know that you can become a Great writer and I'd love to have some small part in that journey! This is a wonderful poem, and a wonderful sestina especially, so play around with it and see if you can make it even better!
Keep writing!

WeepingWisteria says...

Thank you so much! The eternal warrior of the reviewer is reviewing a style they don't prefer but thank you for giving it your all. I wrote this to be a horror poem, which means violence for all. I will be writing more sestinas in the future because I love the style. They're very fulfilling to write, as you said.

Rook says...

Ah! I do not have very much experience with horror poems! Good luck!

WeepingWisteria says...

Thank you!

It is most unlikely. But - here comes the big "but" - not impossible.
— Roald Dahl