Something a Bit Different: A Villanelle

I was a bit stumped for a subject today.  Then I started feeling a bit melancholy about how quickly spring was passing–I can feel melancholy about almost anything, which is one of my great failings.  Anyway, I remembered this poem I wrote a few years ago because I wanted to try a villanelle.   Here is the Wikipedia definition:  A villanelle has only two rhyme sounds. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the third line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is nineteen lines long, consisting of five tercets and one concluding quatrain.

I wrote it just to see if I could.  Villanelles are not supposed to tell a story–they are more of a verbal dance.  So here it is.

Spring Song

You are gone, but spring has come at last

As it does every year, without remorse,

Smiling harbinger of everything that’s passed.


Fields of yellow flowers, the fierce green of grass,

The sullen river swelling in its course—

You are gone, but spring has come at last.


The black hole in my chest was once so vast

A cavity, it sucked in all light with its force.

Smiling harbinger—of everything that’s passed


Spring sings, in the mockingbird’s pastiche.  Fast

And faster, notes pour from the source.

You are gone.  But spring has come at last,


Though I would stop it, break the iron cast

Of seasons always changing.  There’s no recourse,

Smiling harbinger.  Of everything that’s passed


I cannot be forgiving.  Life’s too fast

Or, then again, too slow to stay, of course.

You are gone, but spring has come at last,

Searing me with everything that’s passed.


Dogwood Winter

This spring is a bit out of control, too early, too much, too warm too soon. The last few days we’ve had a cooler spell here in New York, which reminded me of the “winters” Mother taught me about.

Spring in Tennessee normally comes in an orderly, predictable fashion. Usually it starts in February with the forsythia and crocuses blooming. By March spring is well under way, with gradually warmer periods interspersed with cool spells. The redbuds bloom, then the dogwoods. Finally, in April the blackberry bushes flower.

Cool spells tend to come right when these bloom, and apparently this was always so. Mother and my aunts and uncles all referred to “redbud winter,” “dogwood winter,” and “blackberry winter” as if these were known dates on the calendar. I suppose to a farming community they nearly were.

I guess this is dogwood winter we’re having now in New York, if such a thing exists up here. Everything is out of sync this year. The Bradford pears (stinky, showy things) burst into bloom two weeks ago, along with the Japanese magnolias, which were nipped by the cold and have turned brown. Yet the dogwoods have not bloomed. So I hope they were spared the cold and will open soon.

Sometimes I feel very far from the farm. I’m glad to be working with my brain instead of my back, and God help anyone who had to depend on me to raise food! But I miss the patterns of planting, cultivating, and harvesting. There’s no seasonality to working on a computer. But even here spring intrudes, bursting out along the parkways, in yards, in the scattering of woods.  It’s time to think about planting.  It’s time to grow.

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