One Shot Wednesday–A Villanelle

Pimpshop® mannequins with colourful wigs

Image via Wikipedia

A Villanelle

How would you feel if you knew you would lose all your hair?
She asked me to take her to shop for a wig, if I could.
What would you do if your head were completely bare?

A turban will keep the head warm, protect from cold air.
She told me they told her, her chances were very good.
See, chemo kills cancer but makes you lose all of your hair.

We went to a shop where they showed that they really cared.
I hurried to tell her the fun she could have if she would.
(In a matter of weeks her head will be totally bare.)

“Choose blonde or brunette or even take red, if you dare.
Go ahead—buy a few. Not the gray! ‘Cause you should
live it up when you lose all your hair.”

Every now and again I thought that I saw a tear
brim up in her eyes, mine too—we’re not made of wood.
What would I do if my head were entirely bare?

She decided to wait until she’d be bald to wear
the frosted short one and for nighttime she bought a hood.
By then she’ll know how it feels to lose all her hair
and accept that her head (for a while) will be completely bare.

I don’t usually write form poetry, but every now and again I find it a good exercise to “stretch” my poetic muscles and imagination. I wrote “Chemo” several years ago and, quite honestly, that was my first and last attempt. I’d like to challenge you to post a link to a villanelle on my blog–maybe I’ll even give it another try. A warning, though, if you’re prone to ear worms (catchy tunes that stick in your head), beware.

Here’s the recipe:

The lines are grouped into five tercets and a concluding quatrain to form 19 lines. Lines may be of any length.

The Villanelle has two rhymes. The rhyme scheme is aba, with the same end-rhyme for every first and last line of each tercet and the final two lines of the quatrain.

Two of the lines are repeated:

The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the second and the fourth stanzas, and as the second-to-last line in the concluding quatrain.
The third line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and the fifth stanzas, and as the last line in the concluding quatrain.
The pattern is:
Refrain 1 (A1)
Line 2 (b)
Refrain 2 (A2)
Line 4 (a)
Line 5 (b)
Refrain 1 (A1)
Line 7 (a)
Line 8 (b)
Refrain 2 (A2)
Line 10 (a)
Line 11 (b)
Refrain 1 (A1)
Line 13 (a)
Line 14 (b)
Refrain 2 (A2)
Line 16 (a)
Line 17 (b)
Refrain 1 (A1)
Refrain 2 (A2)


39 thoughts on “One Shot Wednesday–A Villanelle

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Perfect, Victoria.


  2. Belinda says:

    You hooked me in from the beginning. These lines are so life-giving for those who have had to lose their hair during chemo:

    “Choose blonde or brunette or even take red, if you dare.
    Go ahead—buy a few. Not the gray! ‘Cause you should
    live it up when you lose all your hair.”

    Thank you for sharing this deeply moving post.


  3. Thank you, Vivienne. It’s tough to watch someone you love go through that. Do you have the pattern for the chemo caps? I haved lots of odd skeins of yarn.


  4. vivinfrance says:

    This is a seriously good villanelle – I love the way you have played with the repeated lines – stick close to the rules and a villanelle can be a bore. Yours is anything but!

    I recently lost a friend after 7 years of chemo, and I had become very good at knitting her hats – she wouldn’t wear a wig, but her head got cold. My hats were of fantasy design and materials, to pique her sense of style.


  5. Matty says:

    Well, I don’t have cancer, but my head is bare of hair.


  6. Wonderfully written and makes you feel deeply for the person in that predicament. Thanks for sharing.


  7. poemblaze says:

    Excellent. A villanelle is quite the challenge!


  8. Teresa says:

    Great! It really takes the reader into the life of a cancer patient. This seems like it would be a very difficult format.

    Mine is here.


  9. buttercup600 says:

    An amazing and very touching poem.It touched my heart. Thanks for the information about the villanelle. Hugs xx


  10. Lyn says:

    I really like form poetry from time to time..I have done several pantoums(check my blog). Your poem..heart of courage..we all know at least one victim of this bring tenderness, a good companion…


  11. Eric says:

    One doesn’t encounter villanelles very often. My poems take whatever form suits them – I rarely try to fit any ‘form’ but sometimes it happens. Nice One Shot!


  12. Shashi says:

    Its touching.. and I wanted to read more so I am going to explore your blog…

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    Twitter: @VerseEveryDay


  13. revbillcook says:

    Strict form is hard. Solid job. A worthy subject and something well worth reading. – bill


  14. Lu Ann says:

    Sounds very, very interesting. I may even try…

    And the chemo story… well it was amazing.
    It must be terrible to lose all of your hair, though I totally agree with you, I would have fun changing my look every day, from brunette to blond or even afro…


  15. Trisha says:

    thanks for sharing the rules of villanelles. sounds interesting.


  16. Trisha says:

    its really fun to experiment these poetry styles.

    a very beautiful and touching poem. it touched the core of the heart.


  17. brian says:

    nice. cancer has touched my family in many ways so i can feel and relate…never tried the form…perhaps a little intimidated…smiles. nice one shot.


  18. Desert Rose says:

    that was soo brought back some memories back..thank you.


  19. I am usually not a huge fan of “form” but this poem was amazing. The raw emotion of the experiences presents a truly powerful picture. Part heartbreaking, part up-lifting, you really showed some chops on this one. Glad you submitted it to 1SW, this was beautiful use of language and an experience to read.



  20. dustus says:

    Props to you. Villanelles are not easy to do well. I the powerful subject matter strikes memorable in refrain. Touching poem. Thanks for explaining the form.
    Nice One Shot!


Your comment and feedback are important to me. Thank you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s