New Orleans Elegies

I
The shape of the loss is fretted but not mapped.
You cannot say ‘Elenore’ and have it so, nor ‘Lindell.’
But pluck the unpromising chord, pull back
the hammer, pour the residual face, listen:
and ancient bridge emerges from your heart
across whose stone logs a loud commerce rattles
day and night, of earnings lost in sport,
lives waged against a broken treadle,
the sunny loneliness of the next drink,
a picturesque adhesion at the core
where all the voices versed against the blank

look crap out, and once more you’ve gone to war.

II
All work is not the same as the work of love
when the mind changes, as it does now,
looking up in a room suddenly not quiet –
the trill of comprehension from her page
a sound like madness – reasonable, familiar –
close enough to mine but still not touching.
But love is shy work, the clapper in a bell.
I should be scared to talk, with what I’ve said.

Does love press an image in her page,
this desiccated, wakeful old celebrant
of the invisible, breaking the law
with her mind that levels language,
with her eyes that cannot light anywhere,
with her hands that rip god out of your throat –
why would her meekness not terrify me?

III
Once or twice in the song I was swear I was sleeping,
my head hanging from a single thread that no longer
looked much like luck or the formula for dreams,
the shy end of her toward me, a festival, a borrowing.

Once in the clear of the melody one loses the key,
it is impossible to lock the music up, a theme strikes
that this one is still helpless to close or open
although there seems to be no trick to it, no joke.

Always it yields in time to be forgotten.
I wish once we could sleep like two horses
standing side by side after a twilight feed,
eyes lashed for the night, forelegs atremble,

but just barely, with being so strongly still.

 

Ralph Adamo

used with permission of the poet

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