Villanelle of the Red Maple

This entry is part 24 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011


Like a question surfacing in the mind of winter,
at last the red maple blossoms are open.
Rich red anthers, puffs of orange pollen—

they are why the white-throated sparrow sings
without stopping in the rain. How does such love happen
like a question surfacing in the mind of winter?

I trail my hand in shallow water, and dredge up
questions no one can answer. I have no weapon
against the richness of red, the puffs of orange pollen.

The lover asks, What need for questions,
when the soul has met its answer?
Fire might dampen,
doubt flicker in the mind’s unfinished winter.

The bird sings its pure white carol in the leaves,
singing, singing— as if the heart knew no other burden,
only the richness of red, the tenderness of orange pollen.

I let it sing, I let you come to me as you have all these years.
I had been tired, I had been lonely. I wanted to open
like a question meeting its answer at the end of winter:
heart rich with red, its joys stippled like puffs of orange pollen.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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7 Replies to “Villanelle of the Red Maple”

  1. This is utterly gorgeous. Holy wow.

    (btw, Dave, I’m planning to post about Igloria’s book this coming Sunday, because on Monday of next week I may be largely offline preparing for the start of Passover — dunno if you’re planning to collect links to posts about the book, but check out VR on Sunday; the post is queued up to go live that day.)

  2. I have a question born of almost total ignorance. Is the rhyme scheme here different than a traditional villanelle? As I understand it the scheme is ABA in each of the tercets, but these don’t seem to rhyme. I do see the repetitive elements, but I’m still confused whether this is the strict form or whether it might have been “adapted” a bit.

    Gorgeous, for sure, but I’m interested in the form. I’ll go check the link in your comment as soon as I post this – there may be an answer there.

    1. I emailed Luisa about this, and she responded, “I admire form but believe that it should not enslave the spirit of the poem” — a sentiment with which I concur. See for a good, brief discussion of the form. “Strange as it may seem for a poem with such a rigid rhyme scheme, the villanelle did not start off as a fixed form,” they claim.

  3. I love villanelles. I even wrote one. It took me about eight hours over several days. Mine went thud, but this one flies and never lights. I bet it took her all of thirty minutes, too. (Not that I mind. I like thuds.)

    Anyway, not to detract from this poem, which makes the old form soar again. Lovely.

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