Shroud Villanelle

This entry is part 51 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


Already the caterpillars in their one winding sheet
lie still as death. The child that picks them whole
in their wrappings wants to know what color, sheen,

or tissue will solder their wings, to make complete
their transformation: first mummy, then prismed unfold-
ing. The caterpillars wound tightly in one dream

build their wings in the dark, breathing replete
but mostly unseen. Convey them carefully; not bole,
but bit of leaf under each body, faint color, sheen—

Clear and cold, lesson lighter than a husk, complete;
elusive flight the body needs, before it turns to coal.
What other dream but for what’s bound within the sheet?

When it comes time to rend the woven sheet
will light bear down upon these bodies whole,
or splinter into spectral color, muted sheen?

So cold some mornings, evenings damp and clear—
All surfaces echoing the questions of their skins.
The caterpillars wound up tightly in one dream,
in sleep burrow more fiercely toward color, sheen.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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One Reply to “Shroud Villanelle”

  1. I am in awe of the implications of the “shrouding” in this particular villanelle’s form, Ma’am Luisa. The deliberate breaking of the syntax in the refrain lines is refreshing, and the intentional lack of the a-b end rhyme in the ending quatrain’s first two lines is startling. Again, form is manipulable. It always follows function: here, sound, syncopation, cadence. And, ultimately, sense.

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