Hypoglycemia: A Sestina


It’s 3:45am- I jolt up, as if remembering I left the iron
or the stove on. My head feels light, all the blood
rushes up, my arms fumble toward the bedside table.
Where are my glucose tablets? I need sugar, I need sugar.
I find a juice box, thank god, and my blood glucose meter
on the floor. I poke my left pinky, blood bubbles from my fingertip.

I coax my blood onto a test strip, lick the pulsing fingertip
and drag my trembling body to the kitchen, legs like iron
armor. It’s just down the hall, a few meters,
but I don’t think I’ll make it, my blood
sugar is so low. I stand empty-eyed by the door. Need sugar.
Miriam finds me, grabs my wrist, sits me down at the table.

She fills a cup with apple juice, sets it on the table
in front of me, picks up my hands and wraps my fingertips
around the cold glass. Drink. I put it to my lips, liquid sugar
spills down my chin onto the wrought iron
dining table. It pools like draining blood.
She asks how I’m feeling. Better, I reach for my meter.

Am I safe? Did I survive another late night low? I rely on the meter
to calculate my insides, my next move. Miriam tables
the questions she wants to ask: How did you let your blood
sugar drop so low again? With so many resources at your fingertips
to prevent this from happening? I trace circles on the iron
table and wait for my body to absorb, react, to sugar.

The nurse said You’re too pretty to have diabetes, Sugar,
when I was diagnosed at 14, but the number (585) on the meter
wasn’t lying- there was no more blaming my weight loss on iron
deficiency or an eating disorder. I sat on the exam table
while the doctor mumbled, drumming his fingertips,
to the nurse that Something isn’t right, we need to test her blood.

15 minutes of sitting in the kitchen, why isn’t my blood
absorbing all of these carbs, this sickly sugar?
Every part of my body between my fingertips
and the bottoms of my feet shake. I stare at the meter-
long scratch on the silver-smooth table.
Damaged- such weak iron.

I squeeze blood from my thumb- the meter reads Low.
Miriam slides the sugar bowl across the table,
I dip my hand in and my fingertips taste like iron.


The story of this poem is kind of funny. During my last semester of college (aka last week), I took a course called Form + Theory of Poetry, where we learned all the different forms of poems (sonnet, blank verse, free verse, villanelle, etc.) When we were assigned the sestina, I was so intimidated by it (and also very stressed out at the time with all of my other coursework) that I just decided to…let that one go… but my professor would have none of that, and at the end of the semester, he told me I would get a B in the class if I didn’t turn in the sestina. So the day before graduation, I put on my big-girl-poet pants and wrote this sestina in about 2 hours. And I survived! And I actually really enjoyed it!

So, about the sestina. It is one, if not THE, most complicated of all the forms of poetry. It has a strict pattern that includes reusing the same 6 end-words in a calculated, varying order, and then using all 6 in the last 3 lines (called the ‘envoi.’)

The pattern goes as follows:


+ the envoi:

line 1: end words b + e

line 2: end words d + c

line 3: end words f + a

So the  6 words that form my sestina are iron, blood,  table, sugar,  meter(s), fingertip(s) 

Also, this is for the 2nd day of Diabetes Blog Week. (Whoopsiedidn’tdothefirstdaybutanyways) and the theme was poetry, so it worked out well that I just wrote this 4 days ago!




  1. Avatar May 13, 2014 / 2:03 pm

    Great poem! Thanks for writing it, but always a bummer to hear about Lows or think about them. btw: GREAT BLOG NAME!!!

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:39 pm

      Thank you! Coffee & insulin seem to be the 2 things I can’t live without haha

  2. Avatar May 13, 2014 / 2:41 pm

    I loved this. And I am a huge poetry nerd, as I’d like to print out that picture of the sestina and hang it on my wall like a poster.

  3. Avatar
    May 13, 2014 / 3:31 pm

    I’m impressed! Great poem.

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:39 pm

      Thank you!

  4. Avatar May 13, 2014 / 3:55 pm

    Super impressive. “Empty-eyed”. Yep yep.

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:40 pm

      Thank you! 🙂

  5. Avatar May 13, 2014 / 6:47 pm

    Ugh, I hate middle-of-the-night lows. You described how they feel very well. Thanks for explaining the pattern behind the sestina. No wonder you wanted to skip it; I’m impressed!

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:40 pm

      Haha thank you! Yep, it’s a complicated form- but actually really fun!

  6. Avatar May 13, 2014 / 11:04 pm

    Nice work! 🙂

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:42 pm

      Thanks Stacey!

  7. Avatar May 13, 2014 / 11:23 pm

    Thanks for the poem we can all relate to and the back story to boot. I had never heard of a sestina.

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:41 pm

      No problem, thanks for reading it! 🙂

  8. Avatar
    May 14, 2014 / 1:16 am

    Wow! That was really good! Thank you and congratulations on graduating (and writing The Sestina)!

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:41 pm

      Thank you! 🙂

  9. Avatar May 14, 2014 / 1:41 am

    That’s awesome, and thanks for introducing sestina.

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:41 pm


  10. Avatar May 14, 2014 / 3:17 pm

    Wow, amazing job. I’m so glad your professor forced you to write this. 🙂

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 15, 2014 / 10:40 pm

      Thanks Karen!!!

  11. Avatar
    May 19, 2014 / 10:17 pm

    Oooh! I love formal poetry if that’s the term. I didn’t recognize it as a sestina, because I don’t know much about anything, but I did notice while reading that THIS FEELS LIKE A REAL poem-POEM.

    Thanks to the fussy professor!

  12. Avatar May 20, 2014 / 2:13 am

    love it. I love poetry but love numbers and interesting (complicated) patterns even more! Cant get much better than a sestina! Nice…

  13. Avatar May 21, 2014 / 7:32 pm

    I’m not so much about sticking to a formula in poetry. I just measure how it makes me feel. I totally get this sestina. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 28, 2014 / 8:42 pm

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  14. Avatar May 28, 2014 / 6:17 pm

    Late to the comment party…sestinas are difficult to write and Type 1 can be difficult to have, but it looks like you’re nailing both. 🙂 Love it.

    • Sarah Grace
      Sarah Grace
      May 28, 2014 / 8:41 pm

      Aw thanks so much! 🙂

  15. Avatar June 13, 2015 / 4:34 pm

    Totally amazing. I’m very late in responding but I was a college writing major myself and I’ve been trying to master the form (and the late night lows) for years. Well done!


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: