Ander Monson Poems



Entry-Level Elegy



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

against remembering

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,


An appendix,

the vestige in the body,


the fishing lure caught

and resonating in the eye,


the register of the disturbance

of ancestry and necessity.


The remaining

family hands

nicked with cuts

pitched up to the

cooling, killing









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.







Ander Monson lives in Michigan where he edits the magazine DIAGRAM and the New Michigan Press. Tupelo Press published Vacationland, a book of poems (from which these are taken), in May 2005. Other Electricities, a novel-in-stories, was published by Sarabande Books that same month.




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