A Villanelle

John William Waterhouse's The Lady of Shalott

A Glimpse of My Past (in villanelle)

 "...And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
           Winding down to Camelot."

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (from "The Lady of Shalott")




In high school, I memorized "The Lady of Shalott," obsessively, 
for extra credit. (we only needed ten lines. It is 171.)
Because of Anne Shirley, because of Waterhouse, entirely.

Because I loved the poem and dreamed of making it a movie...
My own poetry moved in a different way, always more modern,
But in high school I memorized those lines, obsessively. 

I was a thin, gaunt girl with straight blond hair. Too geeky
not to memorize a fifteen minute poem. Born to play the part of
Ophelia, because of Anne Shirley, because of Waterhouse, entirely, 


I grew up thinking of myself in terms of the tragic 
heroine. And I didn't ever measure up, my life much too prosaic.
But in high school, I memorized that lie entirely. 


I grew disenchanted eventually, don't we all? Real life
isn't made for virgin heroines and tragic (but beautiful) endings.
But because of Anne Shirley, Waterhouse, I never entirely


gave up being the romantic heroine. I floated on wings
of happiness and melodramatic depressions never realizing
in high school there was cause to memorize those lines obsessively, 
because of Anne Shirley, Waterhouse, and who I was, entirely.