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New Stones in the River: A Life Insured

A Sestina

By Kate Kastelberg Published 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 1 min read
First Place in the Smooth Challenge




those born

the right

to pass.

Watching from the passenger seat as the ambulance passes

in front, slow, down those Sunday streets that chance

placed in my memory. The right

to live replaced, displaced, unlaced, insured

by the born,

a life earned.

There’s a river that runs through town, its waters earned

by the toil of men’s hands. Passing

under bridges, along streets and railways, it is born

astride industry and chance

carving the hill, insuring

prosperity, longevity, human right.

We turn too as the ambulance turns right,

we know she is already gone. “Hold on,” my father earns

the right to say them: those words insuring

a last sliver of hope as it passes,

stream-like, replaced by chance

replacing the dead and the born.

When the river was born,

there were no stones made smooth by the left and right

of its current. Mere chance:

the sight of men throwing jagged gravel in the bed, earning

their own living. The site packs up, passes

when the work is done, with each life insured.

For ten years we’ve been insured

for her death. The years since the river was born,

I have sat on its stony shores, passing

time’s spells: feel roughshod rock turn to velvet as lilies bloom right

from the water’s surface, slowly at first, earning

their place in the sun. Now is your chance.

With lithe petals unfurling as if to say that chance

is just destiny earning

its right.

social commentarysad poetrynature poetry

About the Creator

Kate Kastelberg

-cottage-core meets adventure

-revels in nature, mystery and the fantastical

-avoids baleful gaze of various eldritch terrors

-your Village Witch before it was cool

-under command of cats and owls

-let’s take a Time Machine back to the 90s

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (13)

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  • Alison McBain2 months ago

    I loved the twists and turns of the river and how it intertwined with the event that was taking place. Congrats on the win!

  • Wow. I do not have the words to express what this poem made me feel. You've poured so much raw, real emotion into these words. All I can say is, thank you for sharing them, and your first prize was more than well earned. Congratulations, and do keep writing!!! Amazing job.

  • PK Colleran2 months ago

    A poem that flows like the discursive curves of a river, taking the reader to new places. Beautiful. Congratulations on a well-deserved win.

  • Novel Allen2 months ago

    Reminds me of 'A tree grows in Brooklyn'. This is so wonderfully wonderful. Falls off the eyes like leaves from a tree. Congrats on a lovely win.

  • Beautiful. talented writing. Honest prose that reaches inside and evokes emotions you had no idea you were about to give when you started reading the first line.

  • Natalie Wilkinson2 months ago

    The way this poem unfolds, gathering all of the disparate elements into an event that the reader also participates in- its really beautiful. Congratulations, not just on the win, but for being able to write that.

  • Denise Larkin2 months ago

    A wonderfully worded poem. Congrats on being the winner.

  • JBaz2 months ago

    Oh, that is beautiful. So very well deserved win. Congratulations

  • Kageno Hoshino2 months ago


  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Beautiful piece. Congrats.

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Congratulations on the win!!!

  • D.K. Shepard2 months ago

    Congrats! Beautifully composed!

  • Hannah Moore3 months ago

    There's a kind of acceptance here, a sense that the emotional work of living and dying must be done.

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