One is gone, we know; now
the one we know is gone. And so
a position has opened up in the line
we stand in every night to jump
off the bridge and into something like excitement;
we queue so as to avoid an aerial collision
so no one goes half-assed
and all auto-accident on us.
The son of the university
president is dead. We feel like chicken
wire. And setting fire to things.
And nothing will ever be the same—
not the car-sized flags that tower
over Perkins, or the phoned-in threats
to bomb the school in lieu of showing up
for tests we knew we’d fail.
Not the smell of newspaper ink on hands
stained from examining obituaries,
not the sutures stinging in my arm
where they excised the tumor just last week.
Not jets vapor-trailing, gridding out the sky.
The future is a shoulder
without the promise of an arm.
You know how this goes.
The litany of cars like ants
in the picnic and funeral procession
will never gleam the same
or issue the same exhaust.
Even the sun is done for the season.
Juvenile delinquents, preoccupied,
paint your name on overpasses
instead of girls they shun but dream about.
Even the shotgunned Welcome to etc.
signs in the little towns
that clot around the river
seem to read your name
then: Population 0. Recently unincorporated.
I guess this is where I enter grief,
with a hand on a salt lick
and reeking of beer they don’t even make
anymore. Wear a shirt
that looks like a sack, a fresh hat, and great pants
to the funeral.
This is where you come in too,
Herr reader, accidental deer-killer
in the headlit night (what could you have done?),
lotus-eater, each word each line a kind
of draught, a telegraph of my intentions:
forgetfulness and whatever is left
of the moon as it wanes,
bad eighties songs like “Home Sweet Home”
intermittent on the radio,
or anything by Warrant,
some miniature-golf-sized magic
too long, too clearly, or not at all.
My Grandfather’s Thumb
Like my dad’s,
it floats in the jar
at rest on the mantel,
aloft in cooking oil.
Like the hummingbirds
that orbit the feeder,
desperate for nectar
that we purchase in the bottle
from the hardware store
and sometimes lace with Comet
or Mr. Clean
when my brother
is particularly grim,
Like the necks of just-hacked chickens,
or stars in air around the freshly-dead,
It is both ember and emblem of loss,
the vestige in the body,
the fishing lure caught
and resonating in the eye,
the register of the disturbance
of ancestry and necessity.
nicked with cuts
pitched up to the
End’s end, and now the elegy is gone
deserted like a bumper sticker on
the Aerostar you sold last year, or
a winter carnival tent, the ice sculptures
releasing, slimming, slumming down to just
above a hum, that freezing point (that is not
fixed like science or the rules for overcoming grief
but spread out on the roads like salt).
You can pass through this like weather
like a turnstile like a sausage maker.
This is some light. The other side.
This is an elegy for elegies. Ask the amputees
about their lives beyond the accidents,
about their limbs that still—electric—twitch.