Elegy

 

Elegy  

1. Adrift

I count more graves than people in my sleep,
but nothing turns more quickly

than an empty wind
in a place whose memory has died.

And all manner of departure: What you have left is you
without you
. As if it could be different, as if decades

could withdraw and draft a blueprint of motive and action,
returning them, returning you, to that point

across the sea where the ship has not yet arrived.
If you ask she will say it does not matter. If you ask.

 

2. Parentheses

To be within, yet without, as in the unuttered phrase.

It is time the stone made an effort to flower,

to render the void clear and resolute, the diction of
separation divided by decades and your ocean.

The language of silence, drawn near.

 

3. From the Other Side

Sometime becomes never and steps around a desolate corner,
and all we have left is our field

awash in stone, remnants of the unspoken.
I have no memory of you. Nor you, of me,

but the strands do not lie, and unraveled,
expose the imperfect blends

that compose my love. A leaky roof. The last word.
A pity to put up at all

but there is rain.

 

4. Another Night

Of all the hours which were the longest?
The earth trembled around me

and I lay still, bearing witness to
the uncertain malice of its

shrug, shoulders brought to
fore, then returned,

and finally, released. If,
after this half-century, words

could reform in your mouth,
what denial would issue?

Ashes, washing ashore.

 

5. Bridge

And seeing you only as the shadow of an

ending whose voice lies
in an uncommon past, how
may we recognize the very shape we share?

The bridge’s fate is loneliness,
knowing that one side

decries the other’s
call, that separation affords new light:

they are between
comfort and space, between words and a smile,

between nothingness and sorrow,
two points, beginning and end,

reaching, in opposition, towards each other.

 

 

Notes:

“What you have left is you without you” is from Edmond Jabes’s “At the Threshold of the Book” in The Book of Questions: Volume I, translated by Rosemary Waldrop.

“It is time the stone made an effort to flower” is from Paul Celan’s poem Corona,” included in Poems of Paul Celan translated by Michael Hamburger.

“A pity to put up at all but there is rain” is from Basho’s Back Roads to Far Towns, translated by Cid Corman and Kamake Susumu.

Albert Huffsticklers poem “Bridges” which appeared in The Balcones Review in 1987, begins “They are between…”

“Elegy” first appeared on Underfoot Poetry in October 2017.

 

20 thoughts on “Elegy

  1. The Book of Questions has been one of my most treasured books for many years now. I was about 18 when I first picked it up and it’s one of the few books that have remained with me through many, many moves. So wonderful to find someone else familiar with Jabes. And you’ve found a wonderful way to join some of his words with your own. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, Bob, so many worlds within a few words here! Especially like “If you ask she will say it does not matter. If you ask.” A wonderful and thought-provoking poem!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m left with a sense of having “been” somewhere I cannot quite locate in memory … maybe it was just a dream? maybe it was yesterday? The sensation is a bit unsettling … the poem is quite effective in stirring the senses.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jazz. The poem is a bit unsettling, with a barely visible core threading through each part. I was feeling a bit “adrift” when I began writing it (probably in 2000), and that feeling only increased over the decade it took to complete/abandon it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I found this poem very very moving, and the subtle links from one part to another seemed to tell a story without completeness, where there will forever be more to say, if only we could. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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