Our Elegy

by Hayes Cooper

               Flipping back through the chapter I just read
on elegy, I skim each paragraph
from the bottom up. Mom, I want to find out
how to do this

               because this is what they say is done. Except
it’s too early to do this to you. You’re still here tonight,
roaming around the house, picking up a framed
family photo

               then setting it down, turned away by a row
of glassed faces. Our standard poodle Sirius
follows, helping you hunt down the familiar
object that means

               something. We named him together: the runt
of the litter turned dog star, brightest in the sky.
They say elegy claims this power to transform,
to name a death

               otherwise and find consolation in a fable.
You don’t need me to make a story. You write
it yourself, purple inking the whole house
in wobbled hearts:

               your love all over the couch, your jeans, the left
thumb knuckle you bend for a smoother canvas.
Dad says you’ll ruin the furniture, but I hope
you know it’s me

               sneaking you pens. They say anger,
too, marks the elegiac. But when I rush home
to save you from your world, you stand there beaming
to see me, where

               you’ve always been. At home. So I fail anger
and smile back at you. Nor are we two shepherds
with a lifetime of companionship to mourn
in hexameters,

               nor am I allowed to grieve the absence
of your old mind as stasis. We find new ways to talk
each day, and the more I learn to see you,
the slower you fade,

               so we may never finish building the genre
of what we would say to each other. I’m sorry
for the time we had a late lunch at the sushi restaurant
that changed its name

               (we always used its old name anyway)
and you wept when I asked why you couldn’t remember
something that I can’t remember now, and I only tried
to get you to stop.

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