Pseudo-Villanelle, Made of Mondegreens

After The Poison Summer

I can’t climb this ceiling anymore,
bake me a pie of love or bring me an iron lung,
after the poison summer has gone.

Bride bless the day, the dogs say goodnight,
all my luggage, I send to you,
I can’t climb this ceiling anymore.

Sunday monkey play no piano song,
no piano song, ghost man so close to me
after the poison summer has gone.

Warm smell of policemen rising up through the air,
when the rainbow shaves you clean, you’ll know
I can’t climb this ceiling anymore.

Since she left me the bin of owls puking in my bed,
dead ants are my friends, plowing in the din,
after the poison summer has gone.

A monk swimming, dirty deeds done to sheep,
just brush my teeth before you leave me, baby
I can’t climb this ceiling anymore.

The cattle are lonely, the catalog glowing
the poor lady wakes, and she’s got a chicken to ride
after the poison summer has gone
I can’t climb this ceiling anymore.

I assembled this collage of mondegreens skimmed from the laminated sea of whim aka the Internet in December, when I was invited to read at McQuixote Books & Coffee’s first Portland Poetry Series event, Malapropisms and Mondegreens.  What is a mondegreen? It is a mishearing of the words of song, named after misheard words of a 18th century lyric. For further information and enjoyment, consult Maria Konnikova’s primer of the science of misheard lyrics, Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy.

I was rereading the thing other day; Mrs. Dr. Omed looked over my shoulder and said, “You can’t call it a pseudo-villanelle. Either it’s a villanelle or it’s not.” But as I can always extrude a pseudopod of pseudo-self via digital prosthesis into the virtual panoptic medium and  absorb a prefabricated opinion to suit, I cite’s Poetic Form: Villanelle:

Strange as it may seem for a poem with such a rigid rhyme scheme, the villanelle did not start off as a fixed form. During the Renaissance, the villanella and villancico (from the Italianvillano, or peasant) were Italian and Spanish dance-songs. French poets who called their poems “villanelle” did not follow any specific schemes, rhymes, or refrains. Rather, the title implied that, like the Italian and Spanish dance-songs, their poems spoke of simple, often pastoral or rustic themes.

While some scholars believe that the form as we know it today has been in existence since the sixteenth century, others argue that only one Renaissance poem was ever written in that manner–Jean Passerat’s “Villanelle,” or “J’ay perdu ma tourterelle”–and that it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the villanelle was defined as a fixed form by French poet Théodore de Banville.

Contemporary poets have not limited themselves to the pastoral themes originally expressed by the free-form villanelles of the Renaissance, and have loosened the fixed form to allow variations on the refrains.

I don’t know that I’d even call it a poem, more like a nice derangement of epitaphs (malapropism), but I kinda like it. Mrs. Dr. Omed is mistaken about form in verse; the rules of the form are to be followed not because rules but only insofar as accepting their constraint increases enjoyment.


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