Thursday, January 23, 2020

Elegy by Natasha Trethewey


Elegy

       For my father
 
I think by now the river must be thick
with salmon. Late August, I imagine it
 
as it was that morning: drizzle needling
the surface, mist at the banks like a net
 
settling around us — everything damp
and shining. That morning, awkward

and heavy in our hip waders, we stalked
into the current and found our places —
 
you upstream a few yards and out
far deeper. You must remember how
 
the river seeped in over your boots
and you grew heavier with that defeat.
 
All day I kept turning to watch you, how
first you mimed our guide’s casting
 
then cast your invisible line, slicing the sky
between us; and later, rod in hand, how
 
you tried — again and again — to find
that perfect arc, flight of an insect
 
skimming the river’s surface. Perhaps
you recall I cast my line and reeled in
 
two small trout we could not keep.
Because I had to release them, I confess,
 
I thought about the past — working
the hooks loose, the fish writhing
 
in my hands, each one slipping away
before I could let go. I can tell you now
 
that I tried to take it all in, record it
for an elegy I’d write — one day —
 
when the time came. Your daughter,
I was that ruthless. What does it matter
 
if I tell you I learned to be? You kept casting
your line, and when it did not come back
 
empty, it was tangled with mine. Some nights,
dreaming, I step again into the small boat
 
that carried us out and watch the bank receding —
my back to where I know we are headed.

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use by Ada Limón

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use
 
All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.