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Kimberly Coburn

Villanelle For Townes

Still Life with Guitar by Ali Shama

You told them once: “There’s heaven, purgatory, hell.” And the blues
exiled you to the arms of the highway, a wandering apostate —
it’s hard to make a home on earth. When you’ve got flyin’ shoes,

you may as well be Icarus, swing by the sun for the views.
“Someday it’ll burn out – go cold as a plate,”
you told them once. “There’s heaven.” Purgatory, hell, and the blues

left you praying in the Clarkesville dirt, knees bruised,
for Lightning and Thunderbird, scrawling a promise to go straight.
It’s hard to make. A home on earth when you’ve got flyin’ shoes

will lean you, loose legged, over balconies like church pews
to see if the Lord is four floors down. “Hand your bones to fate,”
you told them, once there. Heaven, purgatory, hell, and the blues

snared you fast in a rusty E-string. When the muse
don’t sing, she only moans like a lonesome freight,
it’s hard to make a home. On earth, when you’ve got flyin’ shoes,

they’ll loot your memories, give you a spotlight and a handle of booze,
marvel that you’re still alive and dub you the late, great.
You told them once, “There’s heaven, purgatory, hell, and the blues.”
It’s hard to make a home on earth when you’ve got flyin’ shoes.

“Villanelle” derives from the Italian “villanella”: a rustic ballad or country song.


About the writer:
Kimberly Coburn is an Atlanta-based writer exploring the intersection of craft, the human spirit, and the natural world. Her most recent publications have appeared in The Bitter Southerner, Clerestory Magazine, and American Craft Magazine.

About Townes van Zandt: John Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997) was an American singer and songwriter whose stylings and original work were widely influential during his lifetime and after. He is perhaps best known to the general public for his CW title Pancho and Lefty, popularized by Willy Nelson and others.

Image: Still Life with Guitar by Musa Ali Shama aka EON (contemporary). No medium specified. No size specified. 1995. By free license.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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