Elegy as a Room for My Dead

I try to reinvent you. A white gravestone
in a field of white gravestones: I conjure

this image instead of you. When you died,
I was asked to write an elegy for the funeral.

I didn’t know how to make you from the blank page,
another cavity for the body you inhabited to fill.

Even now, nearly a decade later, I recall
The La-Z-Boy, how you left the indent

waiting for your return like the left margin
expects my cursor will come back, another foot

to raise you another foot from the soil. Row by row,
the headstones sprawl, stanzas for the dead.

Did you know stanza comes from Italian?
It means room. Let me reconstruct you.

in the living room. You sit, radio on your chest,
Sox at the Cubs for the Crosstown Classic,

a Metra train roaring, then leaving. The leaving
is where I ruminate, that the room is dirt,

and the real room is a room that’s empty
of you for almost a decade now.

How much have I reinvented you in this poem
versus rendering your absence in stanza breaks,

each return another reach just short of heaven?
Over which ocean will I scatter these ashes

I wrote for you? I can’t even properly visit
your headstone in a poem.

 

–from Claim Tickets for Stolen People, ©2022 Ohio State University Press

Join the conversation