Poets Online Archive
March 2003


The rondeau (RAHN-doe) is a French fixed form. "In Flanders Fields", a rondeau written by Canadian John McCrae, is the best-known poem from World War I. Decried by modern critics as maudlin and jingoistic, McCrae's poem nevertheless remains the most recognized piece to emerge from the First World War. It was praised by contemporaries as the finest war poem in any language, and has been committed to memory by generations of Canadian schoolchildren. We still see poppies distributed by veterans' groups in the U.S. near Memorial Day in May and on November 11, Remembrance Day, in Canada. The poem is an important part of the poetry of the First World War era. For more on this poem's history, see http://www.geocities.com/worldwar1/mccrae.html

There are a number of variations on this form ( the rondel, rondelet, roundel) but the rondeau usually consists of fifteen lines. Each octo- or decasyllabic line ( 8 or 10 syllables, the number remaining consistent throughout the poem) is set into three stanzas of 5, 4 and 6 lines, with only two rhymes used throughout. In the McCrae poem the rhymes are set up by "blow" and "sky." A word or words from the first part of the first line are used as a (usually unrhymed) refrain ending the second and third stanza. The rhyme scheme then is aabba aabR aabbaR.



You look at me from my computer screen
Your hair a mass of shining curls, a sheen
Of light lies across your smiling face
Love light - and of sadness just a trace

Your eyes have seen the same moon mine have seen
Your lips might yet taste mine - but this machine
That holds you in its pixels' cold embrace
This damned computer screen

Keeps you back, smiling, distant, and keeps me keen
To reach out to you, to keep reaching
As only words from both our fingers chase
The others' fingers tales, tangled, a race
Against life's ticking clock, unheard, unseen -
Inside this damned computer screen

Paul Milne


Come and see how the rivers flow
And down below the voices crow
with delight, on nations might,
admire those that always fight
in the midst of love.

Come and see the skies above
Even as those who push and shove
trample the weak and stand up proud
to proclaim out loud above the crowd
and laugh at the folly of love.

Do not see the blossoms fall
like tears on those they do enthrall
with their beauty, for a moment though
because the world has told them so
there is nothing called love.

Abha Iyengar


In delicate balance, the key -
the earth, moon and stars and the sea.
The tide ebbs and flows like it knows
a rhythm in sync comes and goes
like nothing can lock history.

We but the people - we are we
of earth, not moon, stars or the sea.
A rhythm in sync comes and goes
in delicate balance.

Litter our blood spilled to the sea,
shooting stars from moon's balcony.
Our tide ebbs and flows like it knows
a rhythm in sync comes and goes
like nothing can lock history
in delicate balance.



She seeks a man to take her hand,
But first he must meet her demands:
Answer three questions meant to deny
Him success in winning the high
Flung honor she claims is her hand.

A prince has found her beautiful and grand.
His head might roll he understands.
He’ll try to be a satisfactory

His head was saved and she did stand
Asking to again deny her hand.
Her frozen heart wants him to die.
His kiss does melt it. Aaa, a sigh.
She learns with her love she can land
A man.

Ellen Kaplan


Not as if he had become shy
or that his words had come out dry
but rather memories dropping,
connections once live, stopping.
Inspiration in short supply.

Plus twisted muscle, drooping eye,
the friend's face asking why.
The rhymes false, a form of lying.
                              As if he had

forgotten the path. He would cry
for no reason; thought he would die.
He read many dharmas, shopping
for answers, paused and then stopping-
though he didn't leave, he said goodbye
                              as if he had.

Ken Ronkowitz


I refuse to watch TV,
Green skies in Bhagdad sadden me.
While in the town of SFO
Off to jail objectors go
For speech guaranteed to be free

History repeats itself, I see
In living color, on NBC.
Each network is the first to show
Tracks through deadly sky.

No blood for oil is the plea,
But their blood we’ll spill eagerly
So SUV’s are good to go --
Until our greed makes us the foe
And it will be our turn to see
Tracks through deadly sky.

T. L. Massey


An ordered bed is very good
For setting up the mood.
The full mirror on the wall
And you with toes, pointing tall.
Were you ever Red Riding Hood?

For me there is a likelihood
My irony is misunderstood,
Love in a flat dance hall
An ordered bed.

Love when not so good, could
In ordinary likelihood
As a kind surprise befall
Us, and might enthrall
Us, since desire understood
An ordered bed.

Edward N. Halperin


In Krause's fields the berries lie
'neath Fraser Valley's June-blue sky.
They fantasize a fate of fame
on platter for M'sieur, Madame:
"Discriminating -- come and buy!

"Or if you ring us round, a pie
with glistening glaze to glorify
we're fine with that, or set in flan,"
from Krause's fields.

July sun swelters... "Hear our cry!
It seems we've set our sights too high.
We'll modify and reprogram
and gladly now consent to jam,
leather or juice. Pick, or we die
in Krause's fields."

Violet Nesdoly


“To victory,” the morning spoke
In heavy clouds, black sand and smoke
A sunrise dimmed to hide the dead
Their bodies burn a silent bed
As sleeping children never woke.

Their countless prayers to gods provoke
A plague of fire in counterstroke
And searing words they’ll always dread:
“To victory.”

Other mornings the skies evoke
A blistered air, a strangling choke
Ten thousand more, their prayers unsaid
The word of man they hear instead
The cruelest words he ever spoke:
“To victory.”

James M. Thompson


I am tired of reading about war.
Give me poems about gardens, dogs, your
dented car, or a stinging love affair.
A long drawn-out ode to a speckled pear
is better than bombings, tanks, bloodshed, gore.

I just can't think about it anymore.
I want life back the way it was before
the towers' fall caught us all unaware.
I am tired of a war

I can't assimilate, condone, ignore.
I am getting up, going outside for
a walk and a breath of the first spring air.
Too late to prevent, nothing to prepare,
so I toss the newspaper on the floor.
I am tired of reading.


In War's Chaotic Scene

Silence drifts infinitely in transcendence of steam,
And reclines in the hollows of the gaps in-between,
The days, the nights, all are but a dream,
Asleep in the forks of a seasons fraying seam.

Weary the wee traveler entwined without ease!
The storm cannot awaken; it only chatters through trees,
Benumbed by division, ghostly shadows cast dark canopies,
Oh, how constant the follies on life's erroneous sea,

Still; the silence drifts infinitely in transcendent steam,
As the rains of insanity...............fill the gaps in-between,
The days, the nights become nightmares within the dream
And all of mans ideals, unties into shreds; in wars chaotic scene.

Michael Levy



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