Poem of the Month
Elegy Written in a City Cemetery

By Sina Queyras

Published on August 1, 2014

Somebody left the world last night, and last, and last, and last:1 wild is the glower2 of wind, and words too thin, too meek to shelter.3 Lament in rhyme, she says, lament in roses:4 he was, and is not!5 It will always be darker soon, colder,6 you who are part anger who bent down in winter,7 know that your prayers cannot dismiss the darting shade.8 No, let us not shit upon the ground9 near the lone pine with ivy overspread,10 and let me not your giddiness flatten,11 for so fine the season, so serene the hour12 and all I have left of that moment is this torn scrap.13

I weave my bones thru the freeway haze at Rincon,14 the self returns again, my natal self:15 what you see is the red-shouldered16 judge of the Quirky and Dead. I am not17 man, man is death, and the world pain.18 We were all uncountable stars then:19 the tilt of earth is beautiful20 from every angle.

I mourn for Adonis21 – I expected her to look more dead in the casket.22 Let them bury your big eyes,23 Death, be not loud; your hand did not give her this blow, she was borne to church on glasses of Grey Goose:24 Only the bottle knows she is gone.25 Damn the snow,26 an uneven basin to stroll:27 the curfew tolls the knell of closing time.28 The moon still sends its abundant light.29 It is a hard time among these stones,30 for all the toppled, liquid graves.31 A slumber did your spirit steal.32 At Wilshire and Santa Monica an opossum crossed.33 I thought, Two forms move among the dead, high sleep34 so prescient your absence.35

Small is the poet’s needle, God knows:36 but inside the heart37 a broken night advances in its glass.38 Death knelt among the39 starving children on your plate:40I sometimes think of those pale, perfect faces41 who die as cattle, and I cannot sleep.42

The city you graced was swift.43 Now that the Summer of Love has become the milk of tunnels;44 now that the chestnut candles burn,45 so may the trees extend their spreading.46 There is blessing in this gentle breeze.47 What need of bells to mark our loss?48 Shall I go force an elegy?49 The dead sing Turn the lights down sweetly.50 No more for us the little sighing, nor the grand.51 All the new thinking is still about loss.52




1 Olga Broumas, ‘Elegy.’
2 George Gordon Byron, ‘On the Death of a Young Lady, Cousin to the Author, and Very Dear to Him.’
3 John Donne, ‘Elegie.’
4 Robert Burns, ‘Poor Mailie’s Elegy.’
5 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘Stanzas on the Death of Lord Byron.’
6 Marvin Bell, ‘An Elegy for the Past.’
8 T. S. Eliot, ‘Elegy,’ The Waste Land.
9 Lawrence Ferlinghetti, ‘An Elegy to Dispel Gloom: After the Assassinations of Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco and City Supervisor Harvey Milk November 27, 1978.’
10 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘Elegy Imitated from One of Akenside’s Blank-Verse Inscriptions.’
11 Charles Christopher Bowen, ‘Sappho’s Last Elegy.’
12 Francis Douglas, ‘A Pastoral Elegy.’
13 Larry Levis, ‘Elegy Ending in the Sound of a Skipping Rope.’
14 Tom Clark, ‘Little Elegy For Bob Marley (D. 5/11/81).’
15 Jane Austen, ‘To the Memory of Mrs. Lefroy.’
16 Eavan Boland, ‘On the Gift of The Birds Of America By John James Audubon.’
17 John Danforth, ‘A Funeral Elegy Humbly Dedicated to the Renowned Memory of the Honorable Thomas Danforth, Esq.’
18 John Donne, ‘Elegy on the Lady Markham.’
19 Larry Levis, ‘Elegy with an Angel at its Gate.’
20 Ian McMillan, ‘Elegy for an Hour of Daylight.’
21 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘A Lament For Adonis.’
22 Richard Hugo, ‘Elegy.’
23 Edna St. Vincent Millay, ‘Elegy.’
24 Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, ‘An Elegy.’
25 Sara Teasdale, ‘Dark of the Moon.’
26 Yusef Komunyakaa, ‘Elegy For Thelonious.’
27 Sandra McPherson, ‘Elegy for Floating Things.’
28 Thomas Gray, ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.’
29 Langston Hughes, ‘To a Dead Friend.’
30 Greg Glazner, ‘Summer Elegy in Santa Fe.’
31 Henry King, ‘An Elegy upon Mrs. Kirk Unfortunately Drowned In Thames.’ 32 William Wordsworth, ‘A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal.’
33 Larry Levis, ‘The Oldest Living Thing in L.A.’
34 Wallace Stevens, ‘The Owl in the Sarcophagus.’
35 May Sarton, ‘Elegy.’
36 Peter Pindar, ‘Elegy to a Friend.’
37 Judith Goldman, ‘proportions of a giant in monument valley.’
38 Muriel Rukeyser, ‘Second Elegy. Age of Magicians.’
39 William Wordsworth, ‘She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways.’
40 Ben Lerner, ‘Mad Lib Elegy.’
41 Wilfred Owen, ‘The One Remains.’
42 Wilfred Owen, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth.’
43 Marilyn Hacker, Elegy for a Soldier.’
44 Larry Levis, ‘Elegy for Whatever Had a Pattern in It.’
45 Jon Stallworthy, ‘Elegy for a Mis-Spent Youth.’
46 Tibullus, ‘To Priapus: Elegies 1.iv,’ trans. John Dart.
47 William Wordsworth, The Prelude.
48 William Wordsworth, ‘Composed on the Eve of the Marriage of a Friend in the Vale of Grasmere.’
49 John Donne, ‘An Elegy on Mrs. Bulstrode.’
50 Terrance Hayes, ‘Stick Elegy.’
51 Ezra Pound, ‘Threnos.’
52 Robert Hass, ‘Meditation at Lagunitas.’ 

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