This French song form, made famous in English by Dylan Thomas and Elizabeth Bishop, is so tricky. The repeating first and third lines doubled at the end, is a form that it’s very hard to make sound natural. I think Tim Seibles achieved this by slightly altering the lines. This arrived in my inbox today from the Academy of American Poets “poem-a-day” series.
All Time Blues Villanelle
Hard to watch somebody lose their mind
Maybe everybody should just go get stoned
My father said it happens all the time
I knew a woman lost her to soul to wine
But who doesn’t live with their life on loan?
Shame to watch somebody lose their mind
Don’tchu gotta wonder when people say they’re fine?
Given what we’re given, I guess they actin grown
I think I used to say that all the time
When my parents died, I coined a little shrine
And thought about all the stuff they used to own
Felt like I was gonna lose my mind
Used to have a friend who smiled all the time
Then he started sayin he could hear the devil moan
Hate to see a brotha lose his gotdam mind
Doesn’t matter how you pull, the hours break the line
Mirror, Mirror on the wall, how come nobody’s home?
Broke my soul for real, when my mother lost her mind
Tried to keep my head right, but sanity’s a climb
Been workin on the straight face—I guess my cover’s blown
My father tried to tell me all the time
Had one last question, baby, but maybe never mind
After’while, even springtime starts to drone
Hard to see somebody lose their mind
My pop said, “Boy, it happens all the time”