Monday, March 28, 2011

The Old Woman, Going

The Old Woman Prepares to Go

A rondel

Don’t come too close she’ll soon be gone;
don’t speak, she can’t be evergreen. 
Don’t hold her when the rains convene    
and bulbs all come and bloom like dawn.

The roosting roadrunner shy as a fawn
will scatter twigs and clack and preen               
but find no seed for she’ll be gone.
Don’t speak, she can’t be evergreen.

Out on the cedar speckled lawn
the redbud’s face will rouge unseen
and dot the eye, clear cruel and clean
with shadow snow that melts at dawn.
Don’t come too close she’ll soon be gone.
Don’t speak; the world is evergreen

March 2011
Revised to follow correct rhyme scheme: 
ABba/abAB/abba AB

Posted for  One Stop Poetry Form  at the inimitable One Stop Poetry

Since this is all about writing form, I thought it might be interesting to some to show how a free verse poem turns into a form poem in Hedgewitch’s kitchen, and also I have to admit an attachment to both versions. So, I’m posting both the derived rondel and the original verse it’s based on.  

Here's where I started(free verse):

The Old Woman Goes

Don’t get too close to her.
Soon she’ll be gone, never to see 
the redbud bloom again
dotting the eyes with soft purple, 
or the bold marauder charge of the bulbs
upward green to a flaring yellow.

The roadrunner will come roost on her porch
with its haphazard scatter of twigs
and odd clicking chatter to be chased off
by someone else.
The feral guinea hens will find no seed
beneath the empty feeders, and with
the thincheeked minimalist squirrels, dimly mourn
hungry in mindless confusion.

All the books and the vinyl will be sold,
the illegible scribbles, the antic photographs
thrown in the dumpster 
after the poorly attended
estate sale. She'll be forgotten 
faster than snowmelt on the vernal equinox
except perhaps in a far crumbling house
where an old man dreams of seed and birds 
and spring
remembering shelter.

March 2011

Photo: redbud, by joy ann jones, March 2011


  1. Beautiful...both Joy. I wish I could send your rondel to accompany mine at the burial today. They are both apt for that nearly 90 year old woman who has left her family and the few friends that are left. She fought hard and hung to the branches long. She loved nature more than people and was always more of IT than she was "of them".
    I love reading your work. Really want to hold your published work in my hands. Gay

  2. i love them both as well joy - you have such a way with words - the A refrain is in kind an unusual place (3rd stanza, 1st line) - but well - what would the world be without variations...?
    and all iambic tetrameter except this one line:
    The roosting roadrunner shy as a fawn
    but as rondels doesn't have to be iambic tetrameter it's fine - it gives an accent to your poem - i like it
    and just wow for "translating" a free verse poem into a rondel - i think that's very difficult and you've done it so well...kudos

  3. Brilliant Joy, I like these rondels but all that's flowing form my fingers at the moment is negativity, unfortunately and I'm not a negative person! Loved this warning "don't come too close she'll soon be gone". Great story behind your write too and it's great to see the evolution from freeverse to form!

  4. Thanks Gay. I messaged you.
    Shan, I hear you--you got to go with the flow.

    Yeesh, Claudia--that's a mistake--I got carried away--there are too many b rhymes, too, I think. Sigh. I will rewrite it, because frankly that's one too many A's for me.
    Here's the original, for those who care and come after the rewrite:

    Don’t come too close she’ll soon be gone.
    The redbud’s face will rouge unseen.
    Don’t speak; the world is evergreen
    and dots the eye, clear cruel and clean.
    Don’t come too close she’ll soon be gone.

  5. I'm sure glad you posted the free-verse version because in rondel form I found it a bit impenetrable for this Monday-glazed mind. This crone -- the Cailleach -- is a wizened, flighty bird, well enough aware of the meaningless coda which will be her end to warn everyone and thing that they'll do fine after she's gone. I needed the details of the second to help me to that view; not only is the rondel too spare, but I couldn't divine the mood of the speaker. I got at least a piece of that from the old man who dreams of all she filled with her life. And that the speaker may be the crone doesn't show up until the last stanza of the free-verse form. You wrote that out, and I had to reach for a mind of winter to think the rondel through. Maybe that's what you wanted. She's so central and marginal at the same time. I guess that's how all humble good-byes go. - Brendan

  6. Huh, Brendan. It all seems clear to me /sarcasm. We do sometimes get so into our conversation with the self that it becomes obscure to others. If the free verse helped make the point, which you are grasping well with both hands and toes, then I'm glad I included it. The free version is a bit mushy for me, though. I do think you would have gotten the speaker thing with another reread or perhaps at a better time.

    PS you may want to click on the old nun tag if you want to read more on the topic--it's a sonnet that's more free verse than form, from before you turned up here, and I think the poem may be right up your alley. (tag was broken;fixed now.)

  7. I'm so glad you posted both poems, Hedgewitch. I feel there's much to glean and learn from both of them.

    I became so attached to the rhyme and rhythm of the Rondel that the first line of the free verse version seemed bulky (I think this was a matter of the prepositional phrase 'to her' in the first line). But then as I read on, I fell in love with the free verse as well! Perhaps because free verse offers the space for you to really give us the brilliant imagery I've come to associate with you.

    What really sold me on the free verse version was the image of the old man. Suddenly, the old woman was given a context (a human relationship) and thus new meaning.

    Anyway, I have more thoughts, but I'll suffice to say that both poems are beautiful of their own unique Hedgewitchian way!

  8. As you know, I'm not personally a big fan of form, but seeing both versions makes me see what form can do. The free verse is good, of course, but I like the second version much better. It's beautiful.

  9. I love both, but am truly impressed with your rondel - the rhythm and flow, and the perfection of the wording, are wonderful. Yikes the dumpster part is my worst nightmare - that all my writing will get tossed one day!

  10. This is great, it isn't often you can see how a poem evolves, so glad you decided to share this transformation!

  11. Beautifully done... love how you have shared the Rondel, then tracked back allowing us to see the thought pattern from the start.

    Great piece!

  12. I too love them both, it gives us a sight that normally we dont get to see...

  13. wow~ really appreciated that you posted the metamorphosis of free verse to rondel... I've now re-read several time and am at a toss as to which I love more (odd since I'm not a fan of form) the beauty of your words in free, yet the unspoken in your rondel almost drives it deeper, beautiful ~


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats