The Women of the Garden at the Roof of the World, a sestina.

Some time ago, Barbara Chepaitis challenged me to write a Sestina. If you are unfamiliar with the form, you can read about it here: https://poets.org/glossary/sestina


As the form was created by medieval French troubadours, and my novel, The Garden at the Roof of the World is heavily inspired by poetry written by women troubadours, I have written one that reflects on the six women that risk their lives to travel across the heavily conflicted lands of the mid 13th century in the hope of saving the life of the unicorn that walked with Eve in paradise.


The Women of the Garden at the Roof of the World


Gwenaella, to save her brother, swore to the sorceress she’d save the Unicorn

Eldest and ancient, precious to Numüe and to the first of Women

Though heartbroken at her beloved’s death she knew her deed Holy

Despite the sorceress, for she had great Faith

And while not strong willed she was mighty of Virtue

The strangest thing she would find in her holy journey was Love

Adelie the unwanted bastard daughter of power and her mother’s Love

Now orphaned and hunted for her birth’s secret is called to help a Unicorn

Street wise and a fighter, raised by a woman without understood Virtue

She knew self-worth from her mother’s hidden true love, noble of Women

Raised in the shadow of others wrong judgment and their empty Faith

She found strength in strife, joy in being, and a broken life as Holy

Galiana, the refugee turned whore to survive had no clue she was Holy

The greatest illusions were a caring God and the existence of Love

Every day a scheme built on increasing despair without a foundation of Faith

All a lie, her existence a crime her life devoid until she saw the Unicorn

Understanding that love and beauty exists, and sin not the fault of Women

Reborn she would become what she thought just a bitter lie, Virtue

Garcenda, the faithful servant, patient with a spoiled mistress in whom she saw every Virtue though it is she who was called to aid the unicorns because it is she who is Holy

She let her mistress claim that errand for herself as they joined the Women

On their errand to see what cannot be found without sincere prayer and Love

She gave everything to her mistress except her life, which she gave for the Unicorn

Her death shattered her mistresses’ heart and broke her simple Faith

Kavundi called to be sannyasi, learning the Vedas and Bhakti Yoga of her Faith

Knowing the woman who sent her to be a warrior monk was a goddess of the highest Virtue

She would rise to deeper call to come to the aid of the first woman and the Unicorn

Striving in all that she knew and believed for the preservation of all that is Holy

Only to be destroyed by the most holy thing of all, the discovery that she’d fallen in Love

To be and to becoming in the eternal cycle the one thing she never expected, a Woman

Élise lost her mother and learned from her aunt too young what it was to be a Woman

But her foundation was set in the music and poetry in which she put all her Faith

Taught to seek affection and that sex and romance was all there was to Love

Where having many lovers who fight for her attention was the highest Virtue

Accidentally encountering truth and beauty and what love really is and all that is Holy

She put aside all she knew and was taught to be to die to save the life of a Unicorn

It was more than their Virtue that would be tested on their Holy errand

To save a Unicorn, they must reconcile the first wife with the first Woman

To repair the unity of bitterly divided Faith and walk the hidden paths with Love

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