Butterflies Poem, by Fawziyya Abu Khalid

When you abandoned me,
I didn’t need an elegy
because you had planted
a flight of butterflies in my heart
whose path I follow
like a bedouin who knows
how to perfectly trace the footsteps
of his traunt mare.

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Etta’s Elegy, by Maureen Seaton

for Etta Silver (1913–2013)

This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where the book closes and the clock
opens and the clock closes and the book

opens to song so the snow geese murmur
and the coyote swaggers along the aspens.

This is where the geese fly unabashedly out,
and the sky turns white and wild with sound.

This is where tumult, this is where prophecy.
This is where the poem repents of language.

This is where the poem enters silence,
where the child holds the book in her lap

whose pages are aflame with life, whose
song sways with a usable truth, sorrowing.

And this is where the poem holds its breath,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where it leaps wild about the child,
where the snow geese seize the seamless sky

and the universe splits open for one poem—
the way a life lived calls on us to praise it.

About this poem:

“Etta Silver read and loved poetry all her life. I loved her and she loved me. Her grandson, my friend, asked me to write a poem for her funeral. Inspired by Etta, and having just seen the snow geese fly out of the Bosque del Apache in southern New Mexico and heard the silence after they’d gone, I did.”

Maureen Seaton

 

The Call, by C. Dale Young

in memoriam Cecil Young

I am addicted to words, constantly ferret them away
in anticipation. You cannot accuse me of not being prepared.
I am ready for anything. I can create an image faster than

just about anyone. And so, the crows blurring the tree line;
the sky’s light dimming and shifting; the Pacific cold and
impatient as ever: this is just the way I feel. Nothing more.

I could gussy up those crows, transform them
into something more formal, more Latinate, could use
the exact genus Corvus, but I won’t. Not today.

Like any addict, I, too, have limits. And I have written
too many elegies already. The Living have become
jealous of the amount I have written for the Dead.

So, leave the crows perched along the tree line
watching over us. Leave them be. The setting sun?
Leave it be. For God’s sake, what could be easier

in a poem about death than a setting sun? Leave it be.
Words cannot always help you, the old poet had taught
me, cannot always be there for you no matter how you

store them away with sharpened forethought.
Not the courier in his leather sandals, his legs dark and dirty
from the long race across the desert. Not the carrier

pigeon arriving with the news of another dead Caesar
and the request you present yourself. Nothing like that.
The telephone rings. Early one morning, the telephone rings

and the voice is your mother’s voice. No fanfare. Your
father’s brother is dead. He died that morning. And your tongue
went silent. Like any other minor poet, you could not find

the best words, the appropriate words. Leave it be now.
You let your mother talk and talk to fill the silence. Leave it be.
All of your practiced precision, all of the words saved up

for a poem, can do nothing to remedy that now.

Headaches, by Marilyn Hacker

Wine again. The downside of any evening’s
bright exchanges, scribbled with retribution :
stark awake, a tic throbs in the left temple’s
site of bombardment.

Tortured syntax, thorned thoughts, vocabulary
like a forest littered with unexploded
cluster bombs, no exit except explosion
ripping the branches.

Stacks of shadowed books on the bedside table
wall a jar of Tiger Balm. You grope for its
glass netsuke hexagon. Tic stabs, dull pain
supercedes voices,

stills obsessive one-sided conversations.
Turn from mouths you never will kiss, a neck your
fingers will not trace to a golden shoulder.
Think of your elders —

If, in fact, they’d died, the interlocutors
who, alive, recede into incoherence,
you would write the elegy, feel clean grief, still
asking them questions

— though you know it’s you who’d provide the answers.
Auden’s Old People”s Home, Larkin’s The Old Fools
are what come to mind, not Yeats. In a not-so
distant past, someone

poured a glass of wine at three in the morning,
laid a foolscap pad on the kitchen table,
mind aspark from the long loquacious dinner
two hours behind her,

and you got a postcard (a Fifties jazz club)
next day across town, where she scrawled she’d found the
tail-end of a good Sancerre in the fridge and
finished the chapter.

Now she barely knows her friends when you visit.
Drill and mallet work on your forehead. Basta!
And it is Màrgaret you mourn for.. Get up,
go to the bathroom.

You take the drugs. Synapses buzz and click.
You turn the bed lamp on, open a book :
vasoconstrictor and barbiturate
make words in oval light reverberate.
The sky begins to pale at five o’clock.

Elegy in Joy [excerpt], by Muriel Rukeyser

We tell beginnings: for the flesh and the answer,
or the look, the lake in the eye that knows,
for the despair that flows down in widest rivers,
cloud of home; and also the green tree of grace,
all in the leaf, in the love that gives us ourselves.

The word of nourishment passes through the women,
soldiers and orchards rooted in constellations,
white towers, eyes of children:
saying in time of war What shall we feed?
I cannot say the end.

Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.
Not all things are blest, but the
seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.

This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love.
Years over wars and an imagining of peace. Or the expiation journey
toward peace which is many wishes flaming together,
fierce pure life, the many-living home.
Love that gives us ourselves, in the world known to all
new techniques for the healing of the wound,
and the unknown world. One life, or the faring stars.