In a sestina, line-ending words are repeated in six six-line stanzas in a designated permutation of the words; the thirty-nine-line poem ends with a three-line “envoi” that includes all six of the line-ending words. (After the first, a stanza's end-words take those of the preceding stanza and use them in this order: the 6th, then the 1st, then the 5th, 2nd, 4th and, finally, the 3rd. In the envoi, two of the six words are used in each line.) Here is a sestina by Lloyd Schwartz that uses only six words -- but its punctuation and italics cleverly shape variations of meaning.
Six Words by Lloyd Schwartz
never . . .
Schwartz's poem (included here with his permission) was first published in Ploughshares (Spring 2003); it also is found in a collection for young readers, How to Eat a Poem (Dover Publications, 2006), edited by Ted Kooser.
Sestinas also may be found at these earlier postings: 19 August 2011 and 6 May 2011; on 19 November 2010 was posted a "syllable sestina."
Finally, I offer a link to another six-word sestina -- this one by Ciara Shuttleworth, (in the 29 November 2010 issue of The New Yorker). Here is the opening stanza:
SESTINA by Ciara Shuttleworth
Well, . . .