Elegies for the Night (2002)



Elegies for the Night (2002)
                                        for W

You might palm a small token, damp and misshapen as the words
you expel, never admitting the dark truth.

Or the plundered life, neither black nor white, invisible yet whole.

Someone prays, yet all around silence reigns and the snow melts.

Possibilities cleansed in the light of misplaced certainty.

The charred wind’s fruit bears little resemblance to its predecessor.

And later, within the garden’s stones, what remains
but an acrid taste on the tongues of the speechless?

And if the bones have dispersed where might their thoughts reside?

The wind takes nothing it does not want.

The wind wants nothing.

Nothing remains.

                    I am afraid, she said. Please tell me.

Though the moon returns in its diminished
state, I shall not listen. Words

turn back and eat
themselves, exposing intent

behind form, consonants beneath
vowels lying in wait. Abandonment.

And further senseless
debates: gain from loss, shock and awe,
the incessant demand for others to do

not what you would do but what you would have them do.
I claim no insight,

but even the light you reveal burns unclean.

Despair and its siblings fall to mind.
Scarcities: clean water, air, the simplest meal

when ashes swirl and fingers burn long after
the rain. My son, my son,

and other cries lost in the sand.
If he listened what sounds could he bear,

what sights, which odors? I tremble and lie still.

* * *

“Elegies for the Night” first appeared in Boston Poetry Magazine in April 2014.


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32 thoughts on “Elegies for the Night (2002)

  1. Multilayered and daring use of interlacing metaphors. I don’t know where to begin. So many good lines in this one. This poem is heartbreaking, but it is filled with surprises, contrasts, constant signals and provocations to thought. It meanders in that rare terrain where poetry and philosophy fuse together. I truly enjoyed this one.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Beautiful Robert, and all too true. That bottom photo couldn’t be better. My wife’s comment about war is “Wars are for killing people, and the leaders don’t care.” I agree with her. Wars, sad to say, have far too much to do with power and profits for the weapons manufacturers and their pals.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was particularly drawn to part 3 of this, I think the aspect of words in war, both how they can cause it yet be hopeless once drawn into it, is an important thing to note.
    The sparse nature of the imagery in the final part was an ideal way to conclude the poem, bringing everything back to the most basic of needs and how their absence is indicative of the abandonment of humanity.
    I was going to note on how relevant it is to the current time before realising that comment could apply over the majority of human history. Very well written poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michael. The language of politics fascinates me. What’s left unsaid is often as or more important than what is said, and implication’s reach is employed brilliantly, if dangerously. And yes, aggressors/conquerors tend to forget that people’s basic needs and wants are common to us all. The powerless innocents continue to pay the price.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I too found (3) particularly powerful. The menace of innocent words, bent to nefarious purposes; “consonants beneath vowels lying in wait” is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m amazed at how little most people really listen to what our politicians say, not to mention how they say it, and what they leave out. It’s frightening. If poetry has taught me anything, it’s to examine each word carefully.

      Liked by 1 person

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