Why I have Her in Chains

October 17, 2011

She’s like sugar poured sweet into your veins,
so enchanting, a mistress of the foliage…
but don’t forget why I have her in chains.

She’s like a proto-bird that remains
above the sky, the ultra owl of the ledge.
So like sugar poured sweet into your veins

that she seems to sing your song in refrains
so pure  that words are like wings of knowledge…
but don’t  forget why I have her in chains.

She can float to the moon and back. Her brains
are like students forever in her college—
so like sugar poured sweet into your veins

that she can have sex for you—if what remains
is enough for casual carnal knowledge…
but don’t forget why I have her in chains.

She can stop boils and pox…torrential rains.
She’s total oxygen, queen of bondage.
She’s like sugar poured sweet into your veins…
But don’t forget why I have her in chains.

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2 Responses to “Why I have Her in Chains”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    I was (and am) attracted to the villanelle because of its insistent quality (Rage, rage against the dying of the light)—and though Elizabeth Bishop does expand the tone considerably in ‘One Art’, I think insistence is almost necessarily lurking at the bottom of the form. Insistence as opposed to narrative, as opposed to lyricism—or at least at cross-purposes to lyricism. Insistence, though, (if I may continue the conceit of the poem) is a complex babe. The more insistent one is, I suspect, the less sure one is. Certainly it haunts our religious thinking these days. So poetry (to my way of thinking, kin to religion, prayer, etc.), or the muse of poetry, is a reasonable answer to the implied question: Just who is it that I’ve (the implied narrator—hey, not me!) got in chains? The other interesting answer proposed is that this is a ‘drug poem’. (My wife leads the charge here.) I think I’d rather phrase it as the ‘habit/addictive ’ model of consumption—as opposed to the ‘real need’ model—and then, perhaps, wonder who it is who is in the chains, the narrator, or that ‘she’ that he (it is a ‘he’, isn’t it?) thinks he’s got tied down.
    And yes, that I was able to tie together a larger sentence structure to the repeated lines, is one of the things I’m most happy with here. That you notice such things, John, is wonderful. I’ll try to do as good a job with your new poem—but first I’ve got to go grocery shopping this morning…get some more sugar in my veins.
    By the way: I recommend ‘The Making of a Poem’ by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. Subtitle: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. It’s real good on the villanelle—lots of examples.

  2. John Stevens Says:

    Well, I don’t know what you had in your mind here Jim, but I’ll tell you where my own thoughts led.
    First off, to Greek mythology and I wondered if you were contemplating a goddess (Diana perhaps: foliage, moon). Didn’t quite hold though.
    Next to poetry itself, and the muse. This is where I came to rest. That works for me: a muse who can enchant but float freely out of control and out of reach. Hence the chains.
    And for me a villanelle binds the poor old muse in chains more tightly than any other traditional form.
    On that reading, the poem is very pleasing. All that sugar poured sweetly into the veins – but to avoid excess, the resort to chains too.
    It’s tough to write, the villanelle, isn’t it? I like your control over it, faithful to the repetition but with elision which allows a more natural syntax to flow along. Nice tone. Great stuff!


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