“East India Grill Villanelle” by Cecilia Woloch
 
Across the table, Bridget sneaks a smile; 
she’s caught me staring past her at the man 
who brings us curried dishes, hot and mild. 

His eyes are blue, intensely blue, hot sky; 
his hair, dark gold; his skin like cinnamon. 
He speaks in quick-soft accents; Bridget smiles. 

We’ve come here in our summer skirts, heels high, 
to feast on fish and spices, garlic naan, 
bare-legged in the night air, hot and mild. 

And then to linger late by candlelight 
in plain view of the waiter where he stands 
and watches from the doorway, sneaks a smile. 

I’d dress in cool silks if I were his wife. 
We try to glimpse his hands — no wedding band? 
The weather in his eyes is hot and mild. 

He sends a dish of mango-flavored ice 
with two spoons, which is sweet; I throw a glance 
across the shady patio and smile. 

But this can’t go on forever, or all night 
— or could it? Some eternal restaurant 
of longing not quite sated, hot and mild. 

And longing is delicious, Bridget sighs; 
the waiter bows; I offer him my hand. 
His eyes are Hindu blue and when he smiles 
I taste the way he’d kiss me, hot and mild. 

 
Commentary:

    Upon first reading the title, “East India Grill Villanelle,” I imagined a restaurant, filled with delicious food. I did not picture a love scene or the connection between two people. After reading the poem, I realized how incorrect I was. This poem is so much deeper than the title eludes to.

      The first tercet is a sneak-peek at what will be discussed. “ Across the table, Bridget sneaks a smile;
she’s caught me staring past her at the man who brings us curried dishes, hot and mild.” She obviously does not know the man, because she refers to him as “the man.” She is caught up with staring at him, but she is caught. My first question is, “Why is she staring at him?” I have narrowed it down to three options: he is extremely handsome, his outfit is out-of-this-world crazy, or she is hungry to the max. As we move on to the next tercet, our question is answered. The author lists the qualities in the man that she finds attractive. “his hair, dark gold; his skin like cinnamon.” The author is very intrigued by this man whom she has never met. She is captivated by him.

        Throughout the poem, there is a recurring phrase- “hot and mild.” In the first stanza, she uses it to describe the food. The hot is obviously not spicy, because the next word is mild. The curry-filled Indian food is described as hot and mild. The third stanza uses the phrase to describe herself. She and her friend are out for the night in their awesome outfits. It is interesting that she uses the same words to describe her food and her clothes. “The weather in his eyes is hot and mild.” This metaphor evokes a sense of passion. She is talking as if she is in love with this man- a stranger. From the first stanza to the very last, “hot and mild” is used to describe things she really enjoys- from the food to his kiss.                                                                          

        In the second to last stanza, the author has a moment of clarity. She realizes that she can not continue to have those feelings. After all, she does not even know the man. We are given the idea that the waiter has feelings for her as well. He takes her hand and smiles at her. She pictures a life with him and what it would be like to kiss him.

         The overall theme of the poem seems to be desperation. She really wants to be with this man that she does not even know. She smiles at him and he smiles back-sometimes, but it is almost as if she is embarrassed. She says she gets “caught” by Bridget. She may just be making up the connection in her head. The author creates a very moving analysis of how this women feels around the man she likes. She desperately wants to be with him, and we can clearly see this through the poem.

       This poem has a slant rhyme in every other line. There is no consistent meter, though. 

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