Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
Slaughterhouse-Five

I wanted to do something different this week, but couldn't think of what until yesterday.  I came across my first sestina in Neil Gaiman's book Smoke and Mirrors.  The sestina's form and repetition amazed me.  Although I am in no way comparing my writing to that of Mr. Gaiman, I knew that at some point in the future I'd have to try my hand at a sestina.

This sestina is dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut, and the first of his novels I ever read, way back when I was 12 years old.  If you haven't ever read Slaughterhouse-Five, this sestina may not make a lot of sense to you.  I recommend hurrying to your nearest bookstore, purchasing and reading a copy, and then come back and give this a second pass.

So It Goes

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
He knows the sands of the desert and the ocean's wave.
He never knows when he will wake,
or who he will see and who he will miss.
"Poo-tee-weet" is the sound of the bird's cry
following a massacre, at the sun's next light.
 
Death is not heavy on the heart, instead it is light -
for everyone is alive all the time.
Do not sorrow, do not cry,
or lift your hand in a goodbye wave.
For every boy and girl, mister and miss,
exists in the ship of time's froth-filled wake.
 
If you must console someone's loss with a wake,
hold candles and cherish your fate with their light.
You talk of "Free Will", but you will not miss
the path you have been set upon in time.
Light exists as both a particle and a wave -
as you too exist, both before and after the trumpet's cry.
 
Lead us all in a cheerful cry,
and we will say 'So it goes' when next we wake.
When mustard gas and roses hit us in a wave
and the ground is lit by a single star's light,
you cannot object to the tricks of time.
The past, present and future are all something to miss.
 
Aim for your fate, and you cannot miss -
in everyone's life there are tears you shall cry.
But when all is done, and you look at the time,
the furor of fatalism in yourself will wake.
By seeing the light,
you can accept the Tralfamadorian's wave.
 
As you rise up and down on time's great wave
and think of all the things you will miss,
remember your life, the dark and the light
is always existing, behind someone's cry.
A bombing will produce ruins in its wake
'So it goes', all the time.
 
Billy's version of time is like a wave.
Sometimes he will wake in a zoo next to his miss.
But he does not cry, for he has seen the light.

So it goes.

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