Comment on this article

When One More Elegy Will Not Do 
by Andrena Zawinski

...Among these landscapes the poor soul winds,
vanishes, returns, approaches, recedes,
A stranger to itself, evasive,
At one moment sure, the next unsure of its existence...
--from “Torture” by Wislawa Szymborska

1.  day after day in the sunlit hours, all day
inside the emptied house haunted by the body
I watched at its work, the body’s hands
tuning in the radio for some news, shuffling
through notes of what next there was to do,
pasting photographs onto pages of memory,
the body’s memory occupying the single chair
at a small table cleared of stories spilled across it,
cleared of stories that could have come, of those
that might have inhabited the emptied house
in sunlit hours, filled now by an afterlife
after her and inhabited only by her absence.

2. inside the emptied house in the sunlit hours,
day after day, year after year where I went
to be of some use, scrub the tub, carry in food
change drapes, shake the rugs, take out trash,
inside the small and emptied parcel of space I once
decorated with holiday bows is a dead woman’s home,
my homemade soups and sauces in the freezer still,
the bed unmade, her plate and glass at the sink,
as if she would get to it soon, and the instructions
are there, the notes of what to do with her body
on this day she said must surely come, and did.

3.  as daylight hours fade and the emptied house
dims within a waning light, only shadows remain
of what was saved inside the house stripped bare
of its small and ordinary treasures, the small pleasures
of everyday living stacked on shelves, hung up high,
tucked in drawers, saved for a day when they might be
of some use, but like idle thoughts now lifeless lay
boxed inside a melancholic moonlight, boxed inside
this shell of mortar and brick, sobs the songs
night sings inside a house emptied of her where I burn
candles for all the souls of my dead, watch them dance
the fiery tips in a fevered display flecked onto the walls.
4.  above the emptied house, the sky’s dim jewels
a gaudy light, lead morning round to where I stand
and stare, unexpected as the stranger I have become
to myself, bleary-eyed reflection in her mirror
from where I will travel far away to be yet make a plea
as if she can be petitioned by prayer, like some god
of mythological proportion, and I want an answer
to the prayer I make on bent knee inside the house
in plaintive half-light as I call upon all the blessings
I thought I bought at cathedrals for her weak heart,
flying between cities like they were poems in a book
under construction, like this life under revision.

5.  as I move further from the emptied house
and sunlit days, I think I hear her here and there,
at my arm stepping into Pittsburgh traffic, hear her
warnings washing over Youghiogheny rapids,
her calls inside an Appalachian countryside,
her starlit whispers haunting Charleston gardens,
my name sung on the trill of birds in sweet
Seattle after rain, hear her say upon wind
above Chicago lakeshore to fix my eyes upon the sky,
hear her down the Western coast where shorebirds dip
and dive, and cry and cry and cry.

6.  far from the house emptied of her, by candlelight
a circle of women for parastas sing against the war
inside mournful hearts anchored in silences strung
between clumsy exchanges about afterlife. all I know
of afterlife after her is that mine is occupied by her
absence, that I will live through the long low dreaded
peal of funeral bells echoing the hills, the rivers, the sky
my suffering heart stilled in the struggle to ascribe
some meaning to this, some meaning greater than this
grievous moment lying endless before me has become
in the deceptive sunlight, haunted by her, by the idea
that heaven is only made from what we once were.


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]