Elegy for a Year

Joseph Fasano

Before I watched you die, I watched the dying
falter, their hearts curled and purring in them

like kitfoxes asleep
beside their shadows, their eyes pawed out by the trouble

of their hunger. I was
humbling, Lord, like the taxidermist’s

apprentice. I said
yes, and amen, like the monk brushing

the barley from the vealcalf’s
withers, the heft of it

as it leans against his cilice. 
Winter, I have watched the lost

lie down among their bodies, clarified
as the birdsong

they have hymned of.
I have heard the earth sing longer than the song.

Come, I said, come
summer, come

after: you were the bull-elk in the moonlight
of my threshold, knocking off the mosses from its antlers

before it backed away, bewildered, into foliage.
You were thin-ribbed, were hawk-

scarred, were few. 
Yes, amen, before I heard you giving up

your singing, you were something stumbling hunted
to my open door; you were thinning with the milkweed

of the river. Winter, Wintering, listen: I think of you
long gone now

through the valley, scissoring
your ancient way

through the pitch pines. Not waiting, but the great elk
in the dark door. Not ravens

where they stay, awhile, in furor,
but the lost thing backing out

among the saplings, dancing off the madness
of its antlers. Not stone, not cold

stone, but fire. The wild thing, musk-blooded, at my open
door, wakening and wakening and

wakening, migrations
in the blindness of its wild eyes,

saying Look at them, look at how they have to. 
Do something with the wildness that confounds you.

More by Joseph Fasano

The Figure

You sit at a window and listen to your father
crossing the dark grasses of the fields

toward you, a moon soaking through his shoes as he shuffles the wind
aside, the night in his hands like an empty bridle.

How long have we been this way, you ask him.
It must be ages, the wind answers. It must be the music of the wind

turning your fingers to glass, turning the furniture of childhood
to the colors of horses, turning them away.

Your father is still crossing the acres, a light on his tongue
like a small coin from an empire that has always been ruined.

Now the dark flocks are drifting through his shoulders
with an odor of lavender, an odor of gold. Now he has turned

as though to go, but only knelt down with the heavy oars
of October on his forearms, to begin the horrible rowing.

You sit in a chair in the room. The wind lies open
on your lap like the score of a life you did not measure.

You rise. You turn back to the room and repeat what you know:
The earth is not a home. The night is not an empty bridle

in the hands of a man crossing a field with a new moon
in his old wool. We abandon the dead. We abandon them.
 

Hermitage

It’s true there were times when it was too much
and I slipped off in the first light or its last hour
and drove up through the crooked way of the valley

and swam out to those ruins on an island.
Blackbirds were the only music in the spruces,
and the stars, as they faded out, offered themselves to me

like glasses of water ringing by the empty linens of the dead.
When Delilah watched the dark hair of her lover
tumble, she did not shatter. When Abraham

relented, he did not relent.
Still, I would tell you of the humbling and the waking.
I would tell you of the wild hours of surrender,

when the river stripped the cove’s stones
from the margin and the blackbirds built
their strict songs in the high

pines, when the great nests swayed the lattice
of the branches, the moon’s brute music
touching them with fire.

And you, there, stranger in the sway
of it, what would you have done
there, in the ruins, when they rose

from you, when the burning wings
ascended, when the old ghosts
shook the music from your branches and the great lie

of your one sweet life was lifted?

Testimony

If tonight the moon should arrive like a lost guide
crossing the fields with a bitter lantern in her hand,

her irides blind, her dresses wild, lie down and listen to her
find you; lie down and listen to the body become

the promise of no other, the sleeper in the garden
in its own arms, the exile in its own autumnal house.

You have woken. But no one has woken. You are changed,
but the light of change is bitter, the changing

is the threshold into winter. Traveler, rememberer, sleeper,
tonight, as you slumber where the dead are, if the moon’s hands

should discover you through fire, lie down
and listen to her hold you, the moon who has been away

so long now, the lost moon with her silver lips
and whisper, her body half in winter,

half in wool. Look at her, look at her, that drifter. 
And if no one, if nothing comes to know you, if no song

comes to prove it isn’t over, tell yourself, in the moon’s
arms, she is no one; tell yourself, as you lose

love, it is after, that you alone are the bearer
in that changed place, you alone who have woken, and have

opened, you alone who can so love
what you are now and the vanishing that carries it away.

Related Poems

Dove, Interrupted

Don’t do that when you are dead like this, I said,
Arguably still squabbling about the word inarguably.
I haunt Versailles, poring through the markets of the medieval.
Mostly meat to be sold there; mutton hangs
Like laundry pinkened on its line.
            And gold!—a chalice with a cure for living in it.
We step over the skirt of an Elizabeth.
Red grapes, a delicacy, each peeled for us—
The vestments of a miniature priest, disrobed.
A sister is an old world sparrow placed in a satin shoe.
The weakling’s saddle is worn down from just too much sad attitude.
No one wants to face the “opaque reality” of herself.
                                                                 For the life of me.
I was made American. You must consider this.
Whatever suffering is insufferable is punishable by perishable.
In Vienne, the rabbit Maurice is at home in the family cage.
I ache for him, his boredom and his solitude.
On suffering and animals, inarguably, they do.
                                                    I miss your heart, my heart.