a villanelle

I have been remembering lately, late January 2010, (via the comments to this poem) that I wrote it in several phases. It’s a break-up poem (oh, breaking up really is so hard to do). The situation that inspired it occurred when the young lady addressed as “you” had graduated from high school and once off at college—probably late the next spring—determined we should separate. Clearly, I did not want to. Later, in my memories summertime weather, I convinced her to re-establish our relationship, but it didn’t last. By the late fall or early winter of that same year, 1974, it was all over when she had definitely met and gotten closer to her future husband.

Busy Music

The busy music bends me on my way
in prisoned love denying maturation,
and love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

I said I loved you when I hadn’t, fey:
you harnessed me in heartstring traces,
and the busy music bends us on our way.

You snared my heart with wordless magic sway,
a witchcraft forged from kissing and embraces,
for love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

We waltzed like children in a timeless May
til you commenced to conjure other faces,
and the busy music bends us on our way.

Still childish sorcery sends my heart to stay
selfbound within those former loving laces,
for love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

You are consumed by distance, and today
I exhale my impassioned incantations:
the busy music bends us on our way
and love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

Although this is ages old, it remains one of my very favorite of my poems. (And yes, this one is also posted on Facebook Notes.) I have only written one other villanelle, and the tight repetition and rhyme scheme make that one read more stiffly than this, the first I ever tried. The busy music referred both to the kind of music I was listening to and to life itself, of course.


©2009 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

6 thoughts on “a villanelle

  1. I remember a lot of your poetry, but only in snippets, mostly. This is one that I probably could have recited from memory in its entirety, even before reading it today. I think you are right to consider it one of your favorites. It certainly is one of mine.

    • I thought I had made significant changes since you had a chance to see it. I guess “significant” is in the mind of the pretender!


      • Well, perhaps my memory has failed me and I only assumed it was complete. At any rate, it is a poem I have recited in my head through the decades for unknown reasons. It pops in the same way songs do. Appropriate, considering the metaphor.

        • Ruth, you very likely do remember the poem better than I recollect the revising (which in the end was probably only a word in certain places—fey, I know for certain, and I was troubled by the middle lines of the last two or three stanzas). I’ve tossed all rough draft work long since, but as it was first composed in the early summer of 1975 (possibly earlier; I don’t recall the biographical details so exactly nowadays—should have kept a diary), you easily had the opportunity to see it and know it. The terminal break of the “Irish Honey, Ninety Proof” reference did come later, the weekend of Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, when I first bought The White Goddess, among other things.

          And it pleases me that poem is memorable over these long years. Thanks for that, in particular.

          • Just dropped in for a quick read – no time to linger over comments, but I have to mention that my current profile picture on FB is me in make up for “Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds”. Interesting coincidence!

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