Sestina: Sleep

Back then my father's favorite place to sleep—
His mid-day, weekend slumbers were no cat
Naps—our grey tabby enjoyed too. Her whiskers
Would push straight forward when she'd claw and scratch
The corners of our crème, raw-cotton sofa.
With one last stretch and pull she'd close her eyes

And, with a pounce—in the blink of an eye—
Up she'd be, strolling past my dad, asleep
With the New York Times spread out on the sofa.
Padding to her favorite corner, our cat
Would settle in, outstretch one paw, and scratch
One last time before licking her whiskers

Rhythmically, yawning, then, folding her whiskers
Along her face, tuck her chin, squint her eyes,
Then allow them to close. Through all this scratching
And pouncing and settling in, my sleeping
Father would hardly stir. He and our cat
Sharing the sun-warmed, sectional sofa.

And though it was mid-day, past the sofa
I would try to tiptoe. Some weekends his whiskers
He'd let grow in a bit, unlike our cat,
Of course, who had no choice. Below his eyes
Puffy bags often rose from lack of sleep
During his long workweek when he would scratch

Through his to-do list tasks beside a scratched,
Plastic airplane window. Did our sofa
Call to him then, those Friday nights? Was sleep—
Deep, restful sleep—his thought, stroking his whiskers
Absentmindedly then tugging at his eyes
Likewise? (Kitty—that's what we named our cat,

Not a very clever name for a cat,
I know—had no such lists to scratch.)
Was he able to see, in his mind's eye,
When choosing that plush and clever sofa,
How its color would mask loose fur and whiskers
And how peaceful in it he'd look, fast asleep?

Today, there's no cat claiming my sofa
Where, oft, the scratch of my graying whiskers
Recalls my own youth…blue eyes…drifting…sleep.

Parker Allen Stacy, IV

Copyright 2009 Parker Allen Stacy, IV. All Rights Reserved.



  • Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines a sestina as: "a lyrical fixed form consisting of six 6-line usually unrhymed stanzas in which the end words of the first stanza recur as end words of the following five stanzas in a successively rotating order and as the middle and end words of the three verses of the concluding tercet"
  • A more full description and discussion of the sestina form is available on
  • This is my first attempt at a poem written in this complex form. (Please be gentle.)
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