Poetry

Villanelle the Vote!

4 Nov , 2018  

Villanelle the Vote!

The lady holds her torch aloft, warm welcome beacon to us all.
Her steady message, one of peace, within a world that’s gone berserk,
But whispers, “Use your right to vote, lest our democracy should fall.”

Some cower in the shadowed corners; others rise in sunlight’s thrall
Where hope, ideals, and wisdom guide us from the fears that darkening, lurk.
The lady holds her torch aloft, warm welcome beacon to us all.

The lady welcomes all who yearn, for right and justice to stand tall,
In her book is written “freedom,” for young and old, for doctor, clerk –
But whispers, “Use your right to vote, lest our democracy should fall.”

Past history’s lessons have been cruel; the canons bring a deathly pall
Bonds break, while heartsick mothers cry and distant despots smirk
The lady holds her torch aloft, warm welcome beacon to us all

We’ve failed to heed the warning signs, so subtle sometimes, and so small
The lady stands her ground and beckons, bids us come to play, to work –
But whispers, “Use your right to vote, lest our democracy should fall.”

We stand here, the eleventh hour. Will we listen – heed the call?
Will we do our civic duty? Or will we, disaffected, shirk…
The lady holds her torch aloft, warm welcome beacon to us all
But whispers, “Use your right to vote, lest our democracy should fall.”

Copyright © 2018 Holly Jahangiri


A Little Backstory

Years ago, I ran an online poetry workshop. I asked, “Which form should I teach, next?” My friend Dale answered, “Villanelle.” I’d never written one; in truth, I’d never heard of one. I was too naïve to suggest that Dale go eat dog poop while I taught the class how to write a limerick, instead.

You can’t teach a thing if you can’t do a thing. So I figured out the basics and I wrote the blasted Villanelle:

Amusement Park II

A vibrant world of light and color, wild rides whose structures gleam!
On the tainted shores of Erie, life was carefree, full of joy –
Now it just seems tawdry, tarnished echoes of a tattered dream.

The rollercoaster ratchets up; hear the children’s happy scream
As it plummets to the water’s edge, a shiny metal toy.
A vibrant world of light and color, wild rides whose structures gleam!

See the peeling, gilt-edged carrousel? Life itself’s the theme –
Boardwalk barkers sell blind luck with every trick they can employ.
Now it just seems tawdry, tarnished echoes of a tattered dream.

Sticky hands and faces, hot dogs, cotton candy, and ice cream
Downed with quivering excitement by a girl in corduroy.
A vibrant world of light and color, wild rides whose structures gleam!

Into the garish funhouse door! Dizzy wonder reigns supreme
Lunging, lounging lizard man, the bearded lady, pretzel boy –
Now it just seems tawdry, tarnished echoes of a tattered dream.

The freaks take off their makeup (even they’re not what they seem!)
We once were young and certain that nothing ever could destroy
A vibrant world of light and color, wild rides whose structures gleam!
Now it just seems tawdry, tarnished echoes of a tattered dream.

Then I wrote another one describing how I felt about the form and the person who’d suggested it to me. I vowed never to do it again.

The Villainous Villanelle

Oh, I have scribbled a mile of ink over hill and Dale to hell
Embracing rhymes that have no reason, when meter’s out of season
As mockingly I mutter, “Why not teach the Villanelle?”

Elusive metaphor and simile, the meaning’s lost, as well
But still I scritch and scratch in vain to pen a verse that’s pleasin’
Oh, I have scribbled a mile of ink over hill and Dale to hell

It’s fine good sport, and this I know to call my poems doggerel –
“You know I’m grateful for critique; of course I know you’re teasin’!”
As mockingly I mutter, “Why not teach the Villanelle?”

It’s easier to write a Little Willie, Little Nell,
Than to dig the soul for deeper meaning, and the mind for reason
Oh, I have scribbled a mile of ink over hill and Dale to hell

I should’ve stopped, I was ahead – why didn’t I heed the warning bell?
You artistes go right ahead – just scoff and call it treason
As mockingly I mutter, “Why not teach the Villanelle?”

I’m laughing just to think of April, that you can surely tell –
As from this useless verse, the last drop of rhyme I’m squeezin’
Oh, I have scribbled a mile of ink over hill and Dale to hell
As mockingly I mutter, “Why not teach the Villanelle?”

This came up, somehow, on Facebook – a subthread of comments on my post asking everyone to commit to vote this Tuesday, if they hadn’t, already. I don’t want to start sending out “text a friend” reminders – I’ve had about 40 of them, already, myself! (It’s too important, though, to get angry about it, and it costs me nothing.) I mentioned that I’d once donated to a politician’s campaign, after he sent me a sonnet. (I’m a sucker for a sonnet. But Villanelle starts with “V” and “V” is for VOTE.) So, my friend Susan – who likes to post little poems now and then – promised to write a Villanelle, and I said that a good friend and leader never asks of others something they’re not willing to do, themselves.

And so, in the spirit of not letting anyone suffer alone, I wrote this. And Susan said, “Oh, it’s so on,” and sent me this. This does not count, and it depresses me, even as it makes me laugh.

Susan’s got till midnight, Tuesday.

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8 Responses

  1. BellyBytes says:

    I figured that Vilanelle is a form of poetry -a call to action? A note of caution? I can understan how all your countrymen are feeling with the impending vote on Tuesday. Some of my friends are actually hyperventilating and getting their blood pressure up….But what really matters is that EVERYONE VOTES. People don’t get that THIS is the cornerstone of Democracy. Hope things go your way ( whichever way it is) on Tuesday.

  2. Holly, this is what I call putting words to work! That had to have been tough for both you and Susan! Dang! Rock on! Rock the Vote!

    Cheers,

    Mitch

    • Susan’s got till Tuesday! She just had surgery, and weaned herself of the pain meds in time to vote sober on election day. (She writes hilarious verse when she’s on painkillers, but sober? I suggested she up her game and try a Villanelle. And you know how I feel about the villainous Villanelle… I loathe it, but am loathe to ask if anyone what I’m unwilling to do, myself. So.

  3. Wow! Wow! and wow! Now you’ve got me itching to try writing Villanelle.It would require some practise I think. I like the style though!

    • Try it!! I say that, admittedly, in a friendly “misery loves miserable company” sorry of way. It’s one of the more unfun forms. I suggest starting with the final couplet, since you’ll be repeating those lines ad nauseum, and don’t end on a word like “orange.” Pick two words that rhyme with everything. Once you have got that down, it’s not horrible.

  4. […] thank God my doctor didn’t ask me to compose a Villanelle – I might still be sitting in her […]

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