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Down to This: A Song about the Rain

Dear Readers:

The May Hoot was an evening of wonderful poetry celebrating the outgoing Portsmouth Poet Laureate, John Perrault, and his successor Mimi White as featured readers. They read sweet and often humorous lyrics to love, family, and life's variety, as well as passionate poems on the victims of war and politics.

Among the many exciting projects he launched during his tenure as Poet Laureate, John Perrault began this column. Besides handing off his Poet Laureate crown, John has passed the pen for this column to Lesley Gaudreau and me, who will share the space.

During the open mic portion of the hoot, Kathi Hennessy read this beautiful villanelle:

Down to This: A Song about the Rain

And in the end it all comes down to this:
The mouth that bears the lie is never faint.
Betrayal always happens with a kiss.

The humming phone wires echo emptiness,
the windshield wipers croon their worn refrain,
and in the end it all comes down to this:

With wishful thinking up to its old tricks,
and desolation brooking no restraint,
betrayal always happens with a kiss.

Secrets whispered dissipate like mist,
despite our best precautions against pain,
and in the end it all comes down to this:

You sneered and said "True love does not exist.
Come on - you didn't think …" with such disdain.
Betrayal always happens with a kiss.

Still, I called you friend for some years since
- the tales we tell ourselves to bear the rain -
yet in the end it all comes down to this:
Betrayal always happens with a kiss.

                             - Kathi Hennessy

The villanelle, an old French form, illustrates the great power of both repetition and rhyme: the refrain, lines 1 and 3 in the first stanza, move to separately end alternate stanzas and then come together to close the poem, and the rhyme of the first two lines is repeated in each stanza. When done as well as this, the villanelle is irresistible - we are carried along to its final inevitable root chord. Kathi has also imposed a regular beat of five stresses per line to intensify the poem's music. It is interesting how in this lyric such an elegant and lovely form carries a harsh - even cynical - message. The narrator is recalling a failed love affair, a deception, a trust broken, and draws a general lesson: "… it all comes down to this:/Betrayal always happens with a kiss." We may or may not agree, but it leads us to reflect on our own experiences of betrayal and disappointment.

One of the reasons we love poetry is that it can give voice to any of our emotions, from joy to boredom to despair, so directly. And in some mysterious way, even a sad and angry "song" about the "rain" (pain) in our life, when it is expressed in such a beautifully controlled structure, can help us to endure with dignity.
                                        - Harvey Shepard

"Down to This: A Song about the Rain" copyright 2005 by Kathi Hennessy. The poem (with the title "After All") appears in the spring 2005 issue of The Blue Mouse. Kathi Hennessy lives in Goffstown
and works as a "virtual librarian" at the College for Lifelong Learning. She also teaches creative writing at the Manchester Community Technical College. Her poems and short stories have appeared
in many journals.

Please note: Poems submitted to this column should not exceed nineteen lines.

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