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Elegy


ISSUE:  Summer 2014

Gathered in the yard, shed-side, pokeweed, 
black walnut, pecan tree all leafed and 
umbrellaing. My grandmother, the relatives

constellating after my grandfather’s funeral
as the sons and grandsons spill their beer
and whiskey-on-the-rocks obeisance in the weeds

among my grandfather’s metal underpinnings— 
wheel axles, piled riggings, the teeth and claw 
digging and rooting tools. The goings inside

for chicken and cake. My grandmother
won’t sleep in her bed tonight, she’ll stay
on her sewing room’s single mattress, the walls’

peach, floral lace curtains, the black enamel 
Singer’s needle pierced mid-stitch in fabric. 
After the burial, I sit at her sewing table

and roll off my nylon hose. In view
above, a photograph: my grandparents
and their children in front of their old house

and fields. The seven sisters aligned
on one side, the six brothers on the other, 
a flock’s V-flight, beside my grandparents.

My grandmother’s apron over her dress, 
her work interrupted for this. Beneath
my grandfather’s straw brim, he’s staring off

into his soy crop. For the final breaths,
my grandmother held my grandfather’s hands 
and wiped wet swabs over his lips.

Inside the photograph, inside their old house’s 
right angles and load-bearing beams, there
was a long table set with jarred peach preserves,

sorghum and peppered vinegars; there was 
a maze of rooms, a new one added for each
two children born. That house burnt down

some time ago. I remember the late-night call—
nothing was saved, not even one spoon,
my grandfather saying gone is gone.

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