Original Poem 15: Refrain

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I wrote this villanelle poem during my poetry course at Grinnell. I wasn’t fond of it then, and still think it needs tweaking now, but I like that it is a bit edgier than my normal writing style. However, what remained constant when writing this poem was my love of playing with word meaning. I found a unique opportunity in this poem to use the word “refrain” for its double meaning: v. to abstain from an impulse and n. a refrain, phrase, line, or group of lines repeated at intervals throughout a poem. In noun form, the word “refrain” compliments the villanelle poem in an amusing and playful way.

Refrain by Liz Davis

2009

You see me as a drop of rain among many

sprinkling droplets, yet I worship

you, and—no. I must refrain

from drinking too much champagne

and saying impractical love-sloppy (stop me!) shit

to you. I am a single drop of rain,

a teardrop sphere, driven insane

by you—and it’s hard to admit,

but you already know. I must refrain

from pouring my heart down the drain

every time I skip, then slip,

then take a sip because of you. I drop like rain,

roll down your hard veins, and gain

nothing, feeling desperate pain when I strip

and you say no. I must refrain

and give up this drowning campaign,

a weathered obsession.

You tire of rain.

I must refrain.

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The Watcher

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I read a poem called “The Watcher” at the funeral of my step-grandmother, Annette. She was also known as “Grandma Nut” for a number of reasons, including her health conscientiousness, her sense of humor, and her artistic nature.

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Annette, September 13, 1930 – April 26, 2015

“The Watcher” is a beautiful depiction of motherly love and attentiveness, and in a way the poem absolves children of their tendency to resist or roll their eyes at a watchful and concerned mother. In fact, ironically, the poem comforts the mother’s children by reassuring them that their mother is still watching from heaven.

“The Watcher” by Margaret Widdermer

She always leaned to watch for us
Anxious if we were late,
In winter by the window,
In summer by the gate.
And though we mocked her tenderly,
Who had such foolish care,
The long way home would seem more safe,
Because she waited there.
Her thoughts were all so full of us,
She never could forget,
And so I think that where she is
She must be watching yet.
Waiting ’til we come home to her
Anxious if we are late
Watching from Heaven’s window
Leaning from Heaven’s gate.