25 December, 2014

A Poem from the Vaults, on the Anniversary of My Father’s Death

Sylvan Elegy
For Dale

Silence owl-heavy in branches,
a requiem for the long ago
when yours fingered skyward.

Now wind whips bitter, your foliage
fallen. It’s just the way of things. Making way.
Old growth unobstructs the sky for saplings.

I stood beside you at that winter’s front.
Bark’s enfolded the letters, but some boy with a knife
carved your name on this oaken heart.

* * * * *

The poet strives to make sense of the world through words, a Herculean (if not Sisyphean) endeavor. Elegy wrestles with the many-headed beast we call grief. I penned the earliest draft of this poem, “Sylvan Elegy,” in January of 1998, about a week after my father’s death from sudden illness. I was barely nineteen and only slightly better versed in poetry than in loss, and the poem’s first incarnation was a melodramatic mess several times as long. I pruned it back and sculpted it the way one might trim a bonsai. Now, on the seventeenth anniversary of my father’s untimely demise (and, weirdly, his fiftieth birthday), I find it unexpectedly finished. Strange, how things come to their end.


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