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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: Lesson in Humility (a sestina)
By Sharlyn Guthrie


Three weeks ago, when I was feeling vain
I scanned my fourth grade class-that’s when I spotted
something indicating a disease
dotting Jillian’s cheeks and upturned nose.
I asked her if perchance the speckles itched;
and soon she was possessed by urgent scratching.

Our spelling champion, Jillian, would be scratching.
Her efforts for the bee had been in vain.
By Saturday her arms and legs were spotted;
“Bobby, my alternate, will go,” she knows.
But Friday, Bobby’s back and stomach itched.
His mother called, reporting his disease.

Chicken pox was clearly the disease
that had my stellar spellers ill and scratching.
Then Monday, at ten thirty on the nose,
while Sam read his report on weather vanes,
I noticed that his neck was sparsely spotted
and guessed his blotchy splotches surely itched.

I’d spurned the pox before, and now I itched
to vaccinate against the dread disease
before my fair complexion became spotted.
So, on my to-do list I started scratching,
“Call Doctor,” hoping it was not in vain.
I can’t be sick a week, God surely knows.

Now every savvy nurse and doctor knows
exposure to one student that has itched
means chicken pox will take its normal vein-
seize an entire classroom by disease.
Nothing stops the fever or the scratching.
Doc dismissed the notion I had spotted.

Tuesday, in the mirror a blotch was spotted
here, on my normally unblemished nose.
During penmanship I started scratching;
my nose wasn’t the only thing that itched.
I finally had succumbed to the disease;
No longer was this teacher feeling vain.

Now, nearly well, I’ve tried in vain to make my skin less spotted.
This noxious, cruel disease has given me a beet red nose.
If you must know, I’ve itched in places itches defy scratching.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 04/18/11
So creative - and what a fun piece. Don't know the structure of a sestina, but I definitely like it. Nicely done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/18/11
An excellent Sestina--I love it!
Loren T. Lowery04/18/11
Bravo on using this highly structure poetic form and successfully telling a delightful tale. No way am I that disciplined, so my kudos to you and your talent.
Carol Penhorwood 04/21/11
Being ignorant on poetic forms, my hat goes off to you. A well told tale!
Lillian Rhoades 04/21/11
Hats off to you for your first place win.
Gwen Plauche04/21/11
Congratulations on your win. I loved the use of poetry. Thank you for sharing your work.
Linda Watson Owen04/23/11
Congrats, my friend, on this well deserved win! What a delightful poem! You've worked within the confines of the sestina form and created a fresh, light hearted, entertaining piece all at the same time. Great job!
Earl Taylor04/23/11
I have heard Red Green discuss scatching... but I think your infirmity was more short lived than the curse put on Red and men in general...
Beth LaBuff 04/24/11
LOL, I love your humor combined in this poetic format! :) Super congrats, Sharlyn!
Laury Hubrich 04/24/11
This is from my very smart friend Beth LaBuff who had to school me so I knew what was going on here:

The sestina is a complex form that achieves its often spectacular effects through intricate repetition. The thirty-nine-line form is attributed to Arnaut Daniel, the Provencal troubadour of the twelfth century. The name "troubadour" likely comes from trobar, which means "to invent or compose verse." The troubadours sang their verses accompanied by music and were quite competitive, each trying to top the next in wit, as well as complexity and difficulty of style.

Awesome work, Sharlyn! Congratulations!!!!