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Villanelle on a Line from Macbeth


Stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more.
I don’t want the house, I want its ruins,
cracked panes, grandfather clock, paper-like door.

I want the vines that engulfed exterior walls,
petrified forests of books and manuscripts,
dust-filled afternoons that opened like doors

Onto Hesse’s wind-silvered fields, onto myths
surging up out of the earth. I want the man to say,
“Stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more,”

as he did at the end of every long conversation,
saying “imperfect” and meaning “unfinished,”
saying it always as I moved toward the door,

as I say it now, again and over and again,
I want the words to rebuild the house in shambles:
stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more.

I know: if I went back, there would be nothing
or worse: a new house, pristine, immaculate,
even the vine-filled library gone. I left and shut the door.
Imperfect memory, please, stay, tell me more.


Michael Davis

Boston Review

November / December 2011


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