The Thing's Impossible
published in Ploughshares
winner of a Pushcart Prize


Perhaps the single feature of the villanelle

that twentieth-century poets made their own

is the absence of narrative possibility....

the form refuses to tell a story....

-- The Making of a Poem


Donít write a villanelle to tell a tale:

theyíre not the form for narrative or plot.

Itís pretty obvious why you will fail.


For instance, thereís an island; you set sail.

The wind is perfect, and the day is hot.

Donít write a villanelle to tell a tale,


Because, well, you will have to see a whale,

a wonder, but it canít be caught, or shot.

You see? Itís obvious why you will fail.


Say, youíre with her, and youíre both at the rail;

(I donít think I have mentioned itís a yacht Ė

donít write a villanelle to tell a tale!)


A magic moment. Youíll embrace. The ale

your steward brought will just have hit the spot.

But wait. It should be obvious youíll fail


Since now her husband, whoís been sprung from jail,

is in that sloop approaching, and heís got Ė

Donít write a villanelle to tell a tale.

The thingís impossible. Youíre bound to fail!