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Kevin Arnold


I dropped French in the middle of my second year
My ear loved the sounds, but I didn’t practice at all
I started my lifelong habit of failing to persevere

A language wasn’t required, so I had nothing to fear
Instead, at five foot eight, I tried out for basketball
Dropping French in the middle of my second year

The consequences of dropping it were never that clear
Until later, when Paris sang to me with its clarion call
And I began to question my habit of failing to persevere

In the cafés, as strange words bounced off my ear
I regretted that I hadn’t found the wherewithal
Three years after I’d dropped French in my second year

Unable to converse, I was a gauche conventioneer
As I mumbled “Je ne sais pas,” like a neanderthal
A result of my lifelong habit of failing to persevere

Unless I was spending money, I’d not even get a sneer
On that trip I took in the time of Charles de Gaulle
After I dropped out in the middle of my second year
A result of my lifelong habit of failing to persevere

© by Kevin Arnold.
Used with the author’s permission.


Kevin Arnold holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Jose State University. His newest book is Do Not Think Badly of Me (Manzanita Writers Press). Kevin was named "Writer of the Year" by the California Writer's Club. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where he enjoys enjoys skiing, horses, competitive tennis, and duplicate bridge. Learn more about him at




Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
I like the humor in this poem and the wisdom.
Posted 07/28/2023 02:30 PM
The one thing I encourage in all the people in my life is to learn (and keep proficient at) a second language. Even if you never travel, knowing another language gives you an appreciation for your native oneyou understand more about how it's built and works (or doesn't work), and makes you more fluent in your first language. Also, my job requires regular travel, so developing basic fluency in additional languages has become part of my work, and I enjoy it greatly!
Posted 07/28/2023 01:29 PM
Glen Sorestad:
Wonderful, Kevin! You provided a great boost to my morning.
Posted 07/28/2023 11:47 AM
1) After four years of French, and a French immersion summer school in France, I could read French poets in the original and speak the language. Did I keep it up? Not one bit. Can't speak or read it now. Big regret. 2) Agree with L.S. below: to write a villanelle shows the author can persevere. I've managed two bad ones; his is very good. Now he can try a pantoum, a sestina, and a ghazal, and if he doesn't persevere the muses will probably forgive him!
Posted 07/28/2023 11:43 AM
Arlene Gay Levine:
Seems like, as Larry said, you really did learn to persevere in quite a few activities, especially writing this fine villanelle.
Posted 07/28/2023 11:34 AM
I can relate!!
Posted 07/28/2023 11:10 AM
I love languages and Google Translate is one of my best friends.
Posted 07/28/2023 09:28 AM
Posted 07/28/2023 09:20 AM
Larry Schug:
Perhaps the lesson in this poem is that maybe with age we reap the benefits and lessons of learning to be honest with ourselves. Using this rhyme scheme, to me, does show that a lesson in perseverance was learned.
Posted 07/28/2023 08:20 AM
A truly challenging form and a good job here.
Posted 07/28/2023 07:54 AM
fabulous. For me it was Latin.
Posted 07/28/2023 05:13 AM

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