I can't find you where I've been looking for you,
my elegy. There's all too many graveyards handy
these days, too many names to read through tears
on long black walls, too many bulldozed bonefilled ditches.
And all the animals to mourn, wiped off
the earth like mist wiped off a mirror, leaving one
face, reflection of itself alone,
image of its imagined image; nothing else,
no grief, no dirt, no dogs, no elegies.
That desert is no place for you. And so I looked
where death is birth and gods are animals
and being flows through being as from spring
river flows into river to the sea;
but what's to mourn, if life betakes itself into
another life? Better a rite of passage,
painful joyful celebration of the change,
warning and welcome to the soul returned
forgetful who it was, and we not knowing either,
seabird or child, salmon or fern or fawn.
And on the eightfold way, although compassion finds
itself at home, all the hard work of sorrow
dissolves to breathing in and out the lives let loose
from turning turning turning, gone nowhere
to do no harm at last, after the long despair.
So where to seek? I used to dream of climbing
high in the hills, those silent ridges red with dawn,
to find your sisters the Laments; but that's
a hero's journey. I am older than a hero
ever gets. My search must be a watch,
patiently sitting, looking out the open door.
Far off through shadow I can see a woman
who stands to speak a name. Though I can't hear her voice
across the ruins of the centuries,
I know how hard it was to speak, how her throat ached.
In Rome, beside the pyre or open grave,
they'd say the name aloud three times, and then be still.
A name is hard to say. Who'd read aloud
those names on that long wall, what woman born
could bear to know so many children dead?
Numbers are easier. The men of money say
numbers, not names. Grief's not their business.
But I think it may be mine, and if I have
a people any more, I will find them in tears.
My elegy, your clothes are out of fashion.
I see you walking past me on a country road
in a worn cloak. Your steps are slow, along
a way that grows obscure as it leads back and back.
In dusk some stars shine small and clear as tears
on a dark face that is not human. I will follow you.