Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Dominance of Grey

The Dominance of Grey
 A villanelle

The grey veil she wore ate up all the years.
It licked at her grimaces, nibbled her smile.
It didn't pull off, only washed off with tears.

At night she’d spit into its fine woven fears,
proudly wear it next day to hide naked denial
that just like the veil ate the flesh off the years.

The veil grew a voice and it talked in her mirrors.
It held her more closely than husband or child.
It didn’t pull off and she needed more tears.

What once would dissolve it now reversed the sheer
wisps to dark masking stiffened with bile;
the grey veil she wore grew fat on the years

as she aged, a blown eggshell, flat eyes, lips and ears,
her features erased like an asphalted mile.
It didn’t pull off and she had no more tears.

No  salt left to wash her old face back with tears.
No mind left to fight for her long-eaten smile.
The grey veil she wore  ate up all the years
It didn’t pull off, only drank all the tears.

December 2011

Thanks to Karin Gustafson at ManicDDaily for getting my villanelle juices flowing. Also dedicated to every Mommie Dearest.Grey will eat you, you know.


  1. "a blown eggshell" - what better imagery of hollowness is there than that?

    Grey is more terrifying than total dark, I do believe.

  2. Just plain amazing! A villanelle is a very demanding form, but you have bent it to your theme with outstanding results. I love the subtle changes throughout as your theme develops and you build to the climax of the final refrain.

  3. Simply superb!
    Writing a villanelle is an achievement. Writing a near perfect must be some sort of dream!

  4. I must agree with the previous two comments, the poem is an excellent achievement.

  5. hedge that opening stanza is a ripper...nibbled her smile...nice....really nicely done to form as well....i think i will go take a shower to get rid of these shivers...smiles...

  6. Shivers on this one ... if this is a toad ode to Mommy Dearest, it makes me think of my own dear mother -- whom I do think dearly of -- yet whom had wounds that wrapped round her heart and face like one of those crawling larvae in "Aliens" and made her visage, all her life, so burdened with grey ... Only the chid's eyes peering out, with too much dread and terror to not ice the environs of home .... The grey veil makes me think of a winding-sheet, someone dead long before their time, or mummified inside some miasma so deeply that mother and wife couldn't emerge. Mine had her reasons, but it did doom much of any real relationship except along the furthest edges ... Did the face ever emerge? And hardest, does that veil make ghostly appearances in the mirror? My wife agonizes over that when she hears her mother's voice in her own. This bit of juju I think helps to put it out there, beyond the cold fences surrounding a warm home. Oh yeah, and finely crafted to boot - the formal restrictions wove the veil that much tighter. - Brendan

  7. Thanks, Kerry. Villanelle is one of my favorite forms, but you're so right, its very easy to have it go saccharine and repetitive--but we love a challenge, right?

    @Talon I agree,it def can be.

    @B: Yes, that veil of a role, or a persona to hide behind is like a winding sheet in this one, and can be defensive and sad, or deliberate and malevolently aggressive. I chose veil and not mask, because I think no matter how hardened and cannibalistic that mental cloth becomes, unlike a mask, something of the real self is always revealed. Thanks for reading, and dealing with the form part. ;_)

  8. Oh, wow! What begins to obscure and conceal, ends up devouring. What begins as removable becomes more substantial and permanent than the wearer's original face. Chilling, and expertly drawn.

  9. This is one poem, Hedge, that I can't comment on until I have read it over and over. There is something so extraordinary about it that it demands some further contemplation.

    You go sit on the 'deep' bench today. LOL!

    Lady Nyo

  10. A brilliant write, kiddo and such a lovely meter to the villanelle. Absolutely astounding writing.

  11. Hee hee. I just looked at your profile where you list your occupation as decaying slowly. Hilarious. Me too, only it's far more quickly at my time of life!!!!

  12. Hi Joy! First, thanks so much for the acknowledgement. I feel honored indeed to have started such juices flowing.

    Secondly--I am a great believer in poem, i.e. content above form, so I think it's wonderful that you've played with the form to amplify your meaning, and not let yourself get trapped by it.

    Thirdly--it's a beautiful and powerful central image. It reminds me a great deal of a part in the the beginning of Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurid Brigge when he talks of people using up their faces, and how he comes upon a woman weeping on a park bench, who, in her surprise at his approach, leaves her face in her hands. (Something like that.) Anyway, it's an image with a lot of power and you use it beautifully.

    All your contrasts so great too--eggshell to asphalt, and the movement of the final lines. My only critique comes with this line-
    wisps to dark masking stiffened with bile;
    which I think needs another syllable, or some slightly different emphasis to make up for the enjambment. Maybe you even should put a period after wisps so that there is a full stop. And then let the thought start again, to get the rhythm right. Keep in mind that I may be very wrong here--but I don't think you need to worry about sing-song because of the slant rhymes, so I would play with this line a bit to make the rhythm a bit easier. Just a thought (and maybe wrong one.) A wonderful poem.

  13. lovely to see a villanelle, Joy. Grey is such an underrated colour too (as theme of poem). I've seen magnificent things done with it and you don't disappoint here.

    blown eggshell, flat eyes... haunting imagery

  14. Thanks, Luke--always good to get your vote of confidence.

    @Karin: Oh that line--if you only knew how many times I'd changed it around--I had 'canvas' in there like so: "wisps to canvas sheet masking stiffened with bile" but it felt awkward too, but maybe less awkward than the way you have to force the rhythm as written.

    But thanks for the comparison to the Rilke motif--any such is a high compliment--that's not one I'd read previously but sounds so like him--I'll have to look it up--and thanks as well for coming over for a read on the monster you inspired. I blame it all on you. ;-)


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

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