Three Villanelles

Night-Blooming Cereus

Rise up in darkness. Soon you will be gone,
And morning’s light is harsh. Your dower,
Your single night of burning, still lives on.

Above us now the moon has kept—drawn
By your beauty—watch through the midnight hour.
Rise up in darkness; soon you will be gone.

However frail your light, your fragile song
Of innocence, however brief your flower,
Your single night of burning still lives on.

You are pure transiency. While rook and pawn
Move in relentless ways, and moth devours,
Rise up in darkness: soon you will be gone.

Fixed by your perishable flame, the throng
Of shadows cast about us has no power:
Your single night of burning still lives on.

The place we are is now, and not beyond—
In blossoming, and not the petals’ shower.
Rise up in darkness; soon you will be gone.
Your single night of burning still lives on.

First published in The Formalist

 

Prophecy

They shall return, and by that cold light keep
To the woods’ edge, and the untrammeled vale;
The horse and gryphon shall together sleep,

Fixed in each other’s dreams, and in that deep
Transfusion, frame their forgotten tale.
They shall return, and by that cold light keep

The snow in trodden circles, while they leap
And shudder; reason shall be of no avail.
The horse and gryphon shall together sleep,

It matters not how long. The time to reap
Comes round at last: hammer discovers nail.
They shall return, and by that cold light keep

Strange counsel. Stranger still, on that steep
Mountainside, when all the leaves turn pale,
The horse and gryphon shall together sleep

Beside their hoard of ancient words, and weep,
And gaze out through the rain’s dark veil.
They shall return, and by that cold light keep;
The horse and gryphon shall together sleep.

First published in Iambs & Trochees

 

Flambeau

There, where the pool of mortal light begins
To gather, where the rivulet breaks free
To make a fire, a flame blows in the wind.

This is no easy rising—odds and ends
Of nothingness to stir, darkness to seize
There where the pool of mortal light begins.

Many have doubted, many refused to bend
To such simplicity, down on their knees
To make a fire. A flame blows in the wind

And casts for purchase in the night. To fend
Away the cold—time’s unremitting freeze—
There where the pool of mortal light begins

A solitary spark will do, to send
Illumination through the fallen trees.
To make a fire, a flame blows in the wind,

And neither rain nor drifted snow can mend
The broken branch. Yet more than shadows weave,
There where the pool of mortal light begins
To make a fire. A flame blows in the wind.

First published in The Formalist

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About Jared Carter

Jared Carter’s first collection of poems, Work, for the Night is Coming, won the Walt Whitman Award for 1980. His second, After the Rain, received the Poets’ Prize for 1994. His third, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, appeared in 1999.  All three volumes are available from Cleveland State University Poetry Center. His fourth book, Cross this Bridge at a Walk, is from Wind Publications in Kentucky.