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"Subject to Change"

by Marilyn Taylor

A reflection on my students

They are so beautiful, and so very young
they seem almost to glitter with perfection,
these creatures that I briefly move among.

I never get to stay with them for long,
but even so, I view them with affection:
they are so beautiful, and so very young.

Poised or clumsy, placid or high-strung,
they're expert in the art of introspection,
these creatures that I briefly move among—

And if their words don't quite trip off the tongue
consistently, with just the right inflection,
they remain beautiful. And very young.

Still, I have to tell myself it's wrong
to think of them as anything but fiction,
these creatures that I briefly move among—

Because, like me, they're traveling headlong
in that familiar, vertical direction
that coarsens beautiful, blackmails young,
and turns to phantoms those I move among.


Marilyn Taylor"Subject to Change" is a villanelle, a French form easily identified by its two dueling refrains. Marilyn Taylor uses subtly varied refrains to consider youth and fleeting vitality.

Taylor has served as poet laureate of the state of Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee, where she taught for many years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of six collections of poetry.

"Subject to Change," from Subject to Change © 2004 by Marilyn L. Taylor, used by permission of the author.