Explaining Villanelles to an Alien

With “Waltzing Matilda,” funnel web spiders, and echidnas out of the way, you move on to the villanelle. The alien learns quickly, and soon the rhyme scheme and refrain are being applied to whatever it encounters: moonlight filling a green bucket by the door, a dog’s tooth in furniture, the sound of a nail gun. You go to bed and dream of planets disappearing like balls in a perfect snooker clearance. In the morning you find the walls papered with villanelles, each one signed by what appears to be a bar code. When you scan one with your phone, the screen lights up with footage of a satellite flyby through the heliosphere, trailing the sound of whale song, children crying, sustained applause, and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.”
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