Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Practice Elegy for My Father

Practice Elegy for My Father
Stephen Reese

This kite-flying wind, these slow-drift grays
Feathered with white, a rain that will be hours
Filling the shallow birdbath

Are all that's left of a storm that once launched
An exodus for shelter, then seized on the roofs
Of the emptied houses, peeled them back
Like the pull-tab lids of our cat food.

It made trees kiss the ground in its presence.
Rivers paid an homage so over-the-top
Our cars became their new beds' bright stones.

We threw numbers at it: severity, miles
Per hour, damage's dollar-worth, the dead,
The year of something like it. But it ate
The numbers and spat their shells back
In our faces,

Those faces on the news the next day, people
Picking through what had been their lives.
Then somewhere over Georgia or the Carolinas
It ate so many numbers it lost its appetite
For its own whirling life. It tugged and tugged
But the roofs stayed put, it could manage only
A few dead limbs. And now it drags through Ohio
Like this, barely recognizable.

The name we'd given it, like we would a child,
Is on no one's lips anymore. It's part
Of the record, a date, forgotten except by those
Few people bending in sun and an easy wind,
Lifting out a shoe, a comb, a shirt, a picture frame,

A hand-written recipe like a post card from
That new place in themselves where they'll have
To begin to go on.

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