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A Villanelle

The village in my mother’s head
controlled her heartstrings and her purse,
withheld approval, dispensed dread.

Anyone who looked ahead
risked their wrath and learned to curse
the village in my mother’s head.

Mannequins of silk and lead,
obsessed with piety, perverse,
withheld approval, dispensed dread.

God rest her soul, my mother’s dead.
With all her errors now reversed,
the village in my mother’s head

sees her loved ones clothed and fed,
inspires every joyful, silly, complex verse.
Withheld approval, dispensed dread,

kaput! Edicts from a clearer head
encourage me, “Be plural like the universe!”*
The village in my mother’s head
withheld approval, dispensed dread.

*The quotation, “Be plural like the universe,” comes from one of my favourite poets, Fernando Pessoa, who wrote under dozens of heteronyms, which are pseudonyms with their own lives and identities. Whitman declared himself to contain multitudes. Buoyed by their audacity, I pulled Alain C. Dexter from my own village to be a protagonist and author.


© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Photograph by author