Late summer

Late summer feels like late in life
when earth puts on a play about my youth.
We built the house that made us man and wife.

I play a ghost: a haze of August sunsets rife
with mottled pigments pantomiming truth.
Late summer feels like late in life

before the nimbus frost makes saints of white-
haired lovers.  Forty years of afterglow imbrue
a scrim of sheets that made us man and wife.

Old men like me try not to dream, to start the strife
Joel prophesied.  Let younger men envision youth.
Late summer feels like late in life

when histrionic children play my prime and I,
whom none consults, will build no ticket booth
against the house that made us man and wife.

She hugs me tight.  Old age, a patient knife,
has cut youth’s cast from those concealed from youth:
late summer’s bright ablation.  Late in life
we build the house that made us man and wife.


A read write poem.  The portion of Joel’s prophecy alluded to is here and here.


1 comment

  1. Peter
    Thanks, Dick!
    September 6, 2009, 7:40:05 AM EDT – Reply

    Such a difficult form, the villanelle, and this is a triumph, Peter. A superb achievement on all fronts.
    September 6, 2009, 12:53:22 AM EDT – Reply

    Thank you so much, everyone!

    A good friend pointed out that “playhouse” could give a first (or only) impression of something like a treehouse instead of a theater as I had intended. So I changed the second line from “when earth becomes a playhouse for my youth” to “when thunder claps for curtain calls of youth.”

    Update: just changed it again, now to “when earth becomes a play about my youth.” Further update: now “when earth puts on a play about my youth.”

    August 29, 2009, 8:32:55 AM EDT – Reply

    Beryl Singleton Bissell
    Lovely to be building that house of love, to keep building it for 40 years, late summer, late fall, late but ever new lovely love.
    August 28, 2009, 5:19:42 PM EDT – Reply

    This is utterly lovely.
    August 28, 2009, 4:37:27 PM EDT – Reply

    Peter, this is really beautiful.
    August 28, 2009, 11:32:01 AM EDT – Reply

    Nicole Nicholson
    Wow. A well-crafted villanelle, and I love your season-to-age metaphor. The whole thing contains such beautiful imagery, so I have a hard time picking a favourite line. I enjoyed the read.

    August 28, 2009, 9:45:35 AM EDT – Reply

    Therese Broderick
    A haunting, gorgeous villanelle which is very ambitious in imagery, allusion, textured sound, sytax. I love that you wrote a poem for late August (the season we’re in right now). As an older married woman, I relate deeply to this poem’s theme and seasonal setting.
    August 28, 2009, 9:39:01 AM EDT – Reply

    Thank you all! The feedback was helpful and very encouraging.

    lucas, the thought of Yeats and Thomas is an interesting framework. I strive for Thomas, but I don’t have it in me. But in the striving, I’m finding something.

    Vinnie, I’m glad you liked the allusion to Joel. To me, it was the flattest part of the ride, but maybe a six-stanza poem needs some flat.

    I would love to have used the “late summer” and the “man and wife” in different parts of sentences — for instance, not always have “man and wife” at the ends. Maybe another draft.

    Wanda, I fell in love with some villanelles this summer, ones by Elizabeth Bishop and John Hollander, and my current favorite, Marilyn Hacker’s “Villanelle,” which is about how sex and the rest of life interact over a long-standing relationship. Then I tried to write a villanelle: no go, so I put the idea aside.

    A few weeks later, I was making a mess in my sketchbook one morning and I looked at what’s now the first and third lines of the first stanza. They seemed to have a little of the balance and tension between them that I find in Hacker’s poem. So I wrote the poem from there over several days.

    So I guess it was a combination of both of the approaches you describe?

    Thanks, Wanda, for your question — a great reflective prompt for me.
    August 28, 2009, 7:33:55 AM EDT – Reply

    Wanda McCollar
    A lovely villanelle, and it’s the perfect form for your poem. I’m very interested in the process of creative writing and wonder if the idea to write a villanelle happened after you began sketching our your lines of poetry – or did you begin with the villanelle’s refrain verses in mind? Nice work, indeed, however it began.
    August 28, 2009, 12:06:13 AM EDT – Reply

    Vinnie Kinsella
    Nicely done. I love how you worked Joel’s prophecy into this. I find such allusion enjoyable.
    August 27, 2009, 7:22:11 PM EDT – Reply

    Wow. Wow.
    August 27, 2009, 6:14:01 PM EDT – Reply

    Francis Scudellari
    Great imagery… among the many I enjoyed “Old age, a patient knife, / has cut youth’s cast…”
    August 27, 2009, 2:22:36 PM EDT – Reply

    i like the repetition here. it works very well with the subject.
    August 27, 2009, 11:10:32 AM EDT – Reply

    gautami tripathy
    Wonderful Villanelle.

    I re-read it!

    blowing over that mug of coffee
    August 27, 2009, 9:53:38 AM EDT – Reply

    Wow…all I can say is wow. This is so heartwarming and moving…

    So very beautiful…
    August 27, 2009, 9:53:25 AM EDT – Reply

    the scôp
    Very good piece. Especially good form + theme combination. It feels VERY reflective as a result; the repeated lines of the Villanelle are like thoughts that keep coming back around. Thanks so much for sharing.
    August 27, 2009, 9:37:40 AM EDT – Reply

    Did someone just rob Peter to pay Paul a compliment?

    This is lovely, Peter; I like how Yeats and Dylan Thomas collide in this poem. But it’s all yours, the last four lines being particularly strong.
    August 27, 2009, 9:05:20 AM EDT – Reply

    My apologies, Peter! Having noticed that Paul had picked out the same lines that I had so enjoyed, I mixed up your names!
    August 27, 2009, 9:02:15 AM EDT – Reply

    Hello Paul,

    Just like everyone has already said, this is beautiful and I particularly like:

    “before the nimbus frost makes saints of white-
    haired lovers.”
    August 27, 2009, 8:59:18 AM EDT – Reply

    This piece left me with such a lovely feeling. As the female half in the same time of life it really spoke to me.
    August 27, 2009, 8:30:41 AM EDT – Reply

    Thank you for writing this. It’s very still and lovely.
    August 27, 2009, 4:05:34 AM EDT – Reply

    The same verse that Paul noted was my favourite as well. An absolutely beautiful one! I love the story it tells, from young to old. Thankyou!
    August 27, 2009, 3:17:59 AM EDT – Reply

    This is just beautiful. Wow!
    August 27, 2009, 2:45:34 AM EDT – Reply

    Julie Jordan Scott
    Old men like you try not to dream and yet… your words… give me a much different message.

    Enjoyed the heck out of them…

    (Wishing my poem this week was as charmingly optimistic!)
    August 27, 2009, 2:05:54 AM EDT – Reply

    Paul Oakley
    before the nimbus frost makes saints of white-
    haired lovers…

    Old age, a patient knife,
    has cut youth?s cast from those concealed from youth:
    late summer?s bright ablation…

    August 27, 2009, 1:18:39 AM EDT – Reply

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