Thursday, October 8, 2009


I cannot write an elegy
with elegance or empathy;
I may be a narcissist
and of course you’re deeply missed
but I can’t get past the vision
of your last and worst decision

I cannot write an elegy
in broken-hearted sympathy;
though it does not make me proud
nor would I say these things aloud
I’ve lost you in your misery;
I cannot write this elegy.

Should’ve seen your mama cry
heard the whispers asking why -
was it fear or bleak depression
overpowering regression

Off the wagon, off the meds -
what was going through your head?
had to laugh into a cough
how you’d smirk and shrug it off

It was impulse, not intention -
just a reckless self-suspension;
not a plan to make an end
or sad reunion of your friends

she’d crash through the bathroom door
cut you down and love you more -
would’ve made a killer story
darkest night and dawning glory

I cannot write an elegy
with wisdom or profundity;
I may be a selfish ass
lacking tenderness or class
but, you know - revolving doors
sorry you got stuck in yours

I cannot write an elegy
with lily-scented poignancy;
I can’t say it’s not appalling
that no tears of mine are falling
but reduced to honesty -
I cannot write this elegy

At the service I recalled
found a marker and we scrawled
on the floor, we signed our names
before the carpet layers came

I’d forgotten, and resent
that I wondered what it meant
as your sister choked her way
though her grief to have her say

It was too long since we spoke
too much stout and shiftless smoke;
it was no one’s job to save you
don’t regret the love we gave you

and I bet as things went black
you shed a wish to take it back;
Jesus saves, the devil rents
a misstep’s undue consequence

I cannot write an elegy
befitting of your legacy;
although more than you’d confess
in both breadth and giftedness
there was far too much remaining
such a waste defies explaining

I’ve given up this elegy
but maybe failing is the key;
if our best should bear our witness
let our worst become forgiveness;

I will you, if you can me -
I could not


Nevine said...

Delirious and realistic. Polished and raw. Elegant and gauche. It pulls you closer, but forbids you to enter. Filled with contradictions. With human beauty. And human filth. I loved it!

Karen said...

I am absolutely stunned by this story and the story within the story. Every stanza adds to the picture of both the speaker and the deceased, revealing raw pain and frustration and anger - all the emotions we do feel when someone takes his life.

It is, indeed, very hard to get past "...the vision/of your last and worst decision." Admitting that you can't write an elegy - a lament - for this selfish, useless, impulsive action, as you write the story is both clever and profound. I can see you really trying to write this as elegy, but coming back to the musings on the action itself and just shaking your head in wonder as you try.

How wonderful is this line:

"I cannot write an elegy
with lily-scented poignancy"

and these:

"she'd crash through the bathroom door
cut you down and love you more -
would've made a killer story
darkest night and dawning glory".

Your command of language is among the finest I've experienced in a long time, Joaquin. You understand its rhythms, its nuances, and its power.

This poem is poignant beyond your claims, and I think that readers must see something of themselves in this if they've ever experienced the aftermath of such an act.

It's hard to say I love this. But I do.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Such a pouring out of emotions here - from a terrible ache, to an anger over what has hapenned. The questions that will never be answered - the answers that will never be questioned. It is that complicated. That is the gamut of emotions we run, as humans, when we experience a friend/loved one taking his/her own life. It is never easy to put this action into understandable terms. However, somewhere there IS understanding or empathy, at least - and that is what we try to work through in our poetry. This is remarkable.

Love the way you use the inability or refusal to write an elegy, as your thrust to write this. I see this as a meditation of sorts...and cathartic.

Each and every line is as graceful as it is hard-hitting...but, this one made me catch my breath and hold it for a few silent, sared seconds -

and I bet as things went black
you shed a wish to take it back;
Jesus saves, the devil rents
a misstep’s undue consequence

Now, THAT is poety.

Julie said...

Last week, you made me laugh. This week, I'm crying. But that doesn't mean I don't like the poem. I love it, and I agree with all the other folks' good comments.

This poem is so powerful. And it hits on a theme that is very near to me. You have said the words I could only feel deep in my bones. Thank you, Joaquin.

RachelW said...

Now there's a good, solid dose of reality. Cynic.. ;)

mountain-ash said...

Hi Joaquin - great read, especially the tension - the resentment seems only barely restrained, and of course, the sorrow comes through too.

Really liked the perfect rhythm & rhyme (from one who cannot write decent rhyming poetry) - really pulls the reader along.


Catvibe said...

I love how you write, this is funny and biting, and so so painful. I can think of several people I can relate about with this poem. Your courage to write these honest things in poetry is inspiring.

Sarah Hina said...

Every week I'm at a bit of a loss to come up with words to do your poems justice. All I can say is that this one cut me open.

she’d crash through the bathroom door
cut you down and love you more -
would’ve made a killer story
darkest night and dawning glory

That threw a clot into my throat. I've had this experience with a family member, and the many roads not taken burn brightly in the mind, before they all fall away into ash.

I never stumble over any words or lines in your poems; all the fault lines are in the wrenching content, not the flow. That's what's remarkable, I think--your work is so polished, yet so honest and potent, too.

How can we encapsulate the unexplainable, the ungraspable?

Just like this.

joaquin carvel said...

nevine - "human beauty. And human filth" - i like that - i think that's the soup from where this came. thank you.

karen - thank you - yes, this one was a long time coming - many starts and stops - felt more like a battle than a poem sometimes. your generosity amazes me - and i know what you mean by "It's hard to say I love this" - it's hard to have written it.

k. - it's funny, because i did wrestle with it for a long time, but it really did end up a "pouring out". and yes, confusing and complicated, but ultimately, very cathartic. glad you mentioned those lines - was a little shaky on them - but i couldn't let them go. thank you.

julie - thank you. nothing makes one feel more alone than feeling "wrong" - and nothing is more comforting than knowing one is not alone in that after all.

rachel - thanks - reality being relative, of course.

m-ash - thanks for dropping in and for your words - glad you liked the rhyme - it's a predilection / deficiency of mine, depending on one's perspective.

cat - you, cat (of arc), know a good deal about being inspirational - thank you.

sarah - i'm sorry this struck so close - but glad that along with the emptiness that's left behind, we also have each other. thank you - i'm often at a loss every week too - it's harder to respond to these comments than to write most of the time - i am constantly humbled and grateful for the kindnesses i find here.

Aniket said...

I just came back from a trip home. So am catching up to the lost posts. I'm so glad that I didn't miss this.

Each line here tickles the deepest emotions. This is truly among the best written work I've ever read. Thank you so much for this. You are probably the most under-rated poets in a 1000 years. I wish I had your poems to read while growing up.

"if our best should bear our witness
let our worst become forgiveness;

I will you, if you can me -"