When the swans have flown

I don’t think I’m up to writing a villanelle this evening, so I’m trotting out an old one instead for the dverse prompt.


Gales fill the sky with clouds, snuff out the light—

While shadows scud across the hills so dour,

We hold our breath as daylight dims to night.


Among the trees, rain patters, brief respite

Before your anger bursts, your storm brows glower,

Gales fill the sky with clouds. Snuff out the light!


Oppressive silence fills the air—despite

The falling rain, the taste of it is sour;

We hold our breath as daylight dims to night.


Like paper, blossom’s torn, the sky’s alight

With red-tinged petals, blown the rose’s flower;

Gales fill the sky with clouds, snuff out the light.


So feeble our love seems, so pale and white,

Flame-red when passion had us in its power,

We hold our breath as daylight dims to night.


When did the swans we were sigh and take flight,

To leave us empty-eyed beneath this bower?

Now storm-tossed clouds snuff out the summer light,

Not hands, but breath we hold as falls the night.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

43 thoughts on “When the swans have flown”

      1. Yes, and it can be a tumultuous vacuum in itself. Villanelles can be tricky not just because of the rhymes, but also because of recontextualizing the repeated lines.

      2. Right. There are rules for those things although it does force one to be creative in these poetic confines. They can be fun challenges though. Much like how cell phone novels can be for me to write a complete story in so little words per chapter.

      3. I agree that sticking to rules in poetry is a very good discipline. You have to listen to the rhythm and the rhyme. We do when we listen to songs, so I don’t see why we can’t apply the same sense to poetry.

        How long does your cell phone novel run to in words?

      4. Definitely. I feel as those the rules can help people not only master whatever forms are available, but also helps people develop the rhythm and cadence of a poem. That’s true about music (the instrumentation and the lyrics), so this should apply to poetry.

        I’ve made multiple cell phone novels. The longest one I’ve written so far is Hollandus Landing which was over 94K words. There are traditional novels with shorter word counts than that. The other ones I’ve written ranged from 7k-33k+.

      5. Yes, and I was shocked when I was in the compilation and editing process with Hollandus Landing. Thank you. When I first serialized it on my fiction blog, I posted 5 chapters a day for 6 months straight as a goal to force myself to finally get my writing out there after not releasing my books and short stories for years. With HL, it involved 40 different narrators in this fictional city with 20 chapters each, so I have an egalitarian formula for this particular story.

      6. Ha ha! You did exactly what I’ve been told is a no no for publishers. I tend to write multi POV stories and the poor dears (even the editors) have difficulty following stories with more than a couple three at most POV. I’m trying to revise my latest story to get it down to three POV and not having much success.

      7. That’s cool how you write multi POV stories. Is it really frowned upon by publishers? By that logic, Spoon River should’ve never been published to begin with according to them. Thank goodness I’m self-publishing everything.

      8. I see. Funny how publishers let authors get away with that double standard. I guess for me, I am wont to break the creative “rules” of art once I know what the rules are.

      9. I think they just want what they know will be an easy sell. We used to talk about dumbing down, but that probably counts as being dumbist these days 🙂

  1. I enjoyed this. I liked the line /like paper, blossoms torn/. For my piece,
    I still hung to weighty thoughts on philosophy and politics. I did find the refrain lines similar in effect to a pantoum.

  2. The opening lines are dark and dramatic, Jane, with the clouds snuffing out the light and then you give us this colourful image:
    ‘Like paper, blossom’s torn, the sky’s alight
    With red-tinged petals, blown the rose’s flower’.
    I love the way the repeated lines shift and change, especially ‘Not hands, but breath we hold as falls the night’.

  3. The storm metaphor works so well here, and I love that there is so much action, sound, and tension. Even the silence is fraught. But still you got swans into this. 🙂 Lovely!

  4. This was a splendid write Jane, enchanting. “Not hands, but breath we hold as falls the night.” love, love, love this line. Makes me weak, wanting to cry…

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