Image by Jan Kemp

Villanelle for a Smile

Kevin Ireland


Villanelle for a Smile

Kevin Ireland


Villanelle for a Smile

Villanelle for a Smile

Your sleepy smile was moist and sly
when stupidly I said you’d live for ever.
Why did I claim you’d never die?

You didn’t laugh at me or sigh,
but merely whispered: ‘Never utter never.’
Your sleepy smile was moist and sly.

I couldn’t look you in the eye,
or think of something smart or clever.
Why did I claim you’d never die?

Today my tongue is thick and dry,
and utters no sound whatsoever,
though my heart echoes: ‘Why, oh why?’

Your sleepy smile, still moist and sly,
reminds me of your death forever
and how rash phrases mortify.
Why did I claim you’d never die?


‘Villanelle for a Smile’, from Fourteen Reasons for Writing (Hazard Press, 2001), © Kevin Ireland 2001, used by permission of the author. Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archives (2004).

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Books by Kevin Ireland