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Sestina of Moscow, 1812, Emilia Kelly

This piece is part of our “Tails + Tales” teen summer writing initiative inspired by the 2021 national summer reading theme chosen annually by the Collaborative Summer Library Program.


The troika rolls away as he steps into the club,

A beacon of warmth amidst the cold of the Moscow night.

Inside is full of laughter and life and the clink of glasses.

The war doesn’t exist here, no. Here all live in a sea of vodka.

Look at the soldiers; even they have forgotten the war.

He hopes that perhaps he too can forget.


They dance upon the tables until all is forgotten,

And shrieks of laughter erupt from the rest of the club.

Chaos like this can’t be seen even on the front lines of war,

And the celebration stretches forever into the night.

Friends, let’s have a toast! They lift up their vodka

And to the defeat of Napoleon, they clink their glasses.


He can no longer see; on the floor lay his trampled glasses,

But out of sight, out of mind, right? Now it’s easier to forget.

He lets himself drown in seas of music and vodka,

And is carried away by the life of the club.

The moon has just risen, and young is the night.

Troubles fly far away, and so does the war.


The war… oh lord above, the war….

Gunshots sound like the clink of glasses,

And the club turns into the front line at night.

No matter where he goes, he can’t seem to forget.

Nothing takes his mind from it long, not even the club.

He tries to drown in a sea of more vodka.


The soldiers are singing now, voices slurred with vodka.

They sing tales of love and of family and not of war.

He is the only one melancholy tonight in this club,

Comradery with his broken glasses.

Something as large as a war can’t be forgotten.

How can they party so carelessly through the night?


Day approaches and soon light will replace the night.

The shelves grow barren of bottles of vodka.

The others have forgotten, but he can’t quite forget.

In his mind, Napoleon wages a never-ending war.

On the floor are shattered bits of empty shot glasses,

And soon empty will be this Moscow club.


Morning has banished the night, and they all leave the club.

But he stays behind amidst the glasses and vodka.

The war can’t touch him here, even if he can’t quite forget.

Emilia Kelly is a homeschooled student who loves writing fantasy stories set in worlds inspired by history. She also loves writing about humorous characters who make bad decisions but ultimately mean well. Aside from writing, Emilia also enjoys doodling comics of her characters, watching anime, and performing with the Sarasota Youth Opera.


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