Posts Tagged ‘elegy’

Let them bury your big eyes
In the sacred earth securely,
Your thin fingers, and your fair,
Soft, indefinite-colored hair —
All of these in some way, surely,
From the secret earth shall rise;
Not for these I sit and stare,
Broken and bereft completely;
Your young flesh that sat so neatly
On your little bones will sweetly
Blossom in the air.

But your voice– never the rushing
Of a river underground,
Not the rising of the wind
In the trees before the rain,
Not the woodcock’s watery call,
Not the note the white-throat utters,
Not the feet of children pushing
Yellow leaves along the gutters
In the blue and bitter fall,
Shall content my musing mind
For the beauty of that sound
That in no new way at all
Ever will be heard again.

Sweetly through the sappy stalk
Of the vigorous weed,
Holding all it held before,
Cherished by the faithful sun,
On and on eternally
Shall your altered fluid run,
Bud and bloom and go to seed;
But your singing days are done;
But the music of your talk
Never shall the chemistry
Of the secret earth restore.
All your lovely words are spoken.
Once the ivory box is broken,
Beats the golden bird no more.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Second April (1921)

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When de man
Calls out de ‘las train
You’re gonna ride,
Tell him howdy.

Gather up yo’ basket
And yo’ knittin’ and yo’ things,
An’ go on up an’ visit
Wid frien’ Jesus fo’ a spell.

Show Marfa
How to make yo’ greengrape jellies,
An’ give po’ Lazarus
A passel of them Golden Biscuits.

Scald some meal
Fo’ some rightdown good spoonbread
Fo’ li’l box-plunkin’ David.

An’ sit aroun’
An’ tell them Hebrew Chillen
All yo’ stories . . . .

Don’t be feared of them pearly gates,
Don’t go ‘around to de back,
No mo’ dataway
Not evah no mo’.

Let Michael tote yo’ burden
An yo’ pocketbook an’ evah thing
‘Cept yo’ Bible,
While Gabriel blows somp’n
Solemn but loudsome
On dat horn of his’n.

Go straight on to de Big House,
An’ speak to yo’ God
Widout no fear an’ tremblin’.

Then sit down
An’ pass de time of day awhile.

Give a good talkin’ to
To yo’ favorite ‘postle Peter,
An’ rub the po’ head
Of mixed-up Judas,
An’ joke awhile wid Jonah.

Then, when you gits de chance,
Always rememberin’ yo’ raisin’,
Let ’em know youse tired
Jest a mite tired.

Jesus will find yo’ bed fo’ you
Won’t no servant evah bother wid yo’ room.
Jesus will lead you
To a room wid windows
Openin’ on cherry trees an’ plum trees
Bloomin’ everlastin’.

An’ dat will be yours
Fo’ keeps.

Den take yo’ time . . .
Honey, take yo’ blessed time.

Sterling Brown
Collected Poems (1980)

*I read this poem in Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies (2001) edited by Sandra Gilbert. Sandra Gilbert is an accomplished poet and academic writer … When I was a graduate student at UC Davis, she taught a seminar on elegy. I wanted to take it but didn’t. Now I have this book, which is, at the present time, far better than any seminar. This elegy by Sterling Brown is one of my absolute favorites in Gilbert’s collection. I will be teaching an advanced poetry workshop this fall, and in the week we write elegies, we will read this.

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