This Virus, a Villanelle by Ann E. Wallace

This Virus, a Villanelle

I’ve come to think of this virus as a mad villanelle,
like Sisyphus staggering up that hill under his stone
each week tumbling backward into hell.

For months I’ve heard the siren’s new death knell,
contrapuntal to my breath’s stuttered tone—
and therein lie the rhythms of this virus, a villanelle.

An unending circling round, each wretched swell
pushes me down, as I gasp for air alone
tumbling backward into these waves of hell.

At dawn, I renew my feeble fight to expel
the infection rooted within my chest, its pulsing home,
every gain dashed by this virus, the sour villanelle.

Over months, my breath grows stronger and body able
but the respite’s a tease, with relapse now so known,
Yet, each slip a surprise, a tumble back into hell.

And more, when I finally bid this disease its long farewell,
leave my sickbed to see what in time the world has sown
I fear I’ll see how fast we, unmasked, have fallen back into hell,
that it’s we, not the virus, who’ve created this tortured villanelle.

by Ann E. Wallace

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Editor’s Note: The best villanelles use the repetition of the lines to emphasize the poem’s message, and this villanelle does just that (and makes it look easy!).