Girl Villanelle
by Pauletta Hansel

She’s still there, that girl,
the one I was and hoped to leave behind.
I am forever loosening the ties.

The only life she could imagine for herself
was one she’d heard already in a song.
She’s still there. That girl

took more than her share and left scattered
on the table all that could have fed her.
Hell-bent, she was, on loosening the ties.

I am not ready yet to claim her as my own.
She thought her body was the price of being seen.
She’s still there, that girl,

bound and shivering inside her own smooth skin.
I’ll say for her what she could not; that’s how
I’m loosening the ties

and slipping through the doorway
from the past—I won’t return alive.
Though she’s still there, that girl.
Me, I’m loosening the ties.

SOURCE: “Girl Villanelle” appears  in the author’s collection Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photograph was taken by my boyfriend of the time in Beckley, West Virginia, in the spring of 1977. I was taking a photography class at college and developed the photo myself—thus the yellowing of the background.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Girl Villanelle” was created by working with a number of lines from writing I had done about myself as a young woman. I found the form to be helpful in mirroring the subject of the poem—simultaneously acknowledging the trapped feeling of the girl I was and releasing the tight confines of the villanelle form through enjambment and variation of the repetition.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pauletta Hansel’s poems and prose have been featured in journals including Kudzu, Appalachian Journal, Appalachian Heritage and Still: The Journal, and on The Writer’s Almanac and American Life in Poetry. She is author of five poetry collections, most recently Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015.) Pauletta is co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Recently named Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate, Pauletta leads writing workshops and retreats in the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond. Read more at