Dutch Courage (a sestina)

This happened many years ago now, but as I’m flying solo into Schiphol airport again on Tuesday, it came back to my mind. I’ve been meaning to have a go at a sestina for a while, so here’s my first attempt:

I lament the last time I did visit:
cancellations were rife because of fog,
and Schiphol airport told us numerous lies,
as we darted from one gate to the next –
six hours of expectations were crushed
at 1 am when the last flight had left.

For a place to rest we looked right then left:
there was no room, no comfort to visit,
tiredness brought me tears, my hopes were crushed,
my mind could barely think from jet lag fog.
We walked on towards the transfer desk next,
and in the packed queue attempted to lie.

Scent of cigarette ash near where we lie,
blankets and pillows, for us, none were left,
but that wasn’t the worst for this came next:
Danish skinheads, also on a visit,
saw Norwegian students’ duty-free fog,
and those drunken blonde heads they wanted crushed.

I thought my mother-in-law would be crushed,
perhaps doubting: our arrival a lie,
or that her memory was fading fog,
worrying that Xmas food would be left.
Us knowing this might be our last visit,
and that there might not be a time called next.

A well spoken man appeared to us next,
Indian ancestry – feared he’d be crushed,
we talked about plans, where we would visit,
safety in numbers, with us he did lie –
hoping from skinheads’ focus he’d be left,
and this is how we spent the night of fog.

The morning came and there was no more fog,
we caught which ever plane was offered next.
I felt so grateful to have finally left.
My opinion of KLM stayed crushed,
I’d not trust the airline after its lie,
but we did at least make our pledged visit.

I pray there’s no more fog, or I’ll be crushed –
with this next flight, let me peacefully lie,
find my fear left, for a happy visit!


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