* REMEMBERED: Elegy *

A poem I wrote as I flew home for the farewell.
A poem of mourning, that includes and omits what such poems may....

Pat Harrison - at Christmas
Patricia Harrison


Hear this piece read:

While you were looking away,
  you died.

While you turned on your back 
and again on your side, 
but could not be comfortable
no matter how hard you tried,
  you died.

While you watched for the nurse,
sure it wouldn't matter if you disobeyed,
if you got up again on your own,
wishing your daughter would take you home,
sharp as her tongue could be,
back to the bed
which had become your kingdom,
  you died.

While you thought of an article
  on Chu pottery,
and another on the Egyptians,
  the folds of fat on a scribe,
while you wished you could write
  just one more piece,
while you cursed the bastards
who'd rejected your book,
red-lining each
with a quick sure pen,
  you died.

Half reconciled to your daughters,
wishing your sons would call,
thinking with satisfaction
of the men you had survived,
  you died.

(And it could have been worse,
so much worse,
God, didn't we know it?

Fifty years of smoke,
 and twice you'd fought the monster
gnawing at your chest.
Still, it lingered, like you,
worn out by the struggle,
  two aged beings,
  exhausted and grey.)


While you wished you had the strength
 To read the New York Times,
while you thought of the books
 You'd ordered from the branch,
while you thought of the reading roome
  at Forty-Second Street,
 the gilt wood on the ceiling,
 the green-shaded lamps,
Dry ponderous volumes
 at Science Po,
the bouqinistes along the Seine,
the old used bookstores
 below Fourteenth Street,

The floods, the crowds 
of impatient books,
  you died.

While you remembered,
  dimly, so dimly,
the new white dress
you wore to a vineyard,
grape stains and sunshine,
admiring glances 
of men in the street,
Paris and Rome,
bike rides through Brittany
with the man you loved,
plans as perfect
as chateaux on the Loire;
rubble in the Village,
alley cats and trash;
the somewhat bearable
places we land;
as the flakes of that fresco
began to fall away,
   you died.

As you thought of the tribe of your children:
the men they might have married,
the men they should have been -
clippings to send your cousin,
news to give old friends.
Not that you didn't love them
exactly as they were,
but it could have been so nice,
it would have looked so well -

With that taste
at the back of your throat,
  you died.


As you worried about your garden,
sure the weeds 
had made their way in,
yearning to tug again 
 at a stubborn root,
to mulch, to spade, 
to snap away the dead.
That's what you do,
when they're no good,
 they're gone
- the limp petals 
- the dry leaves
your fingers snip them all.
As you recalled that gesture
   you died.

With no bedside scenes, 
no last words,
no reproaches or forgiveness, 
no promises, no prayers
no significant glances, 
no notes in a drawer,
no one flying in
from anywhere at all -
With no one to close your eyes,
   you died.

While you waited for the doctor
to check a chart next door,
while you tried to ignore
the buzzing and the hum,
while you wondered
when all this would be done,
   you died.

With frustration, irritation,
with some impatience,
but above all fatigue,
   you died.

While you were living,
   and weary of the effort,
weary of everything,
   even entertainment,

While you were living,
   you died.

© 1999, 2009
 Jim Chevallier
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