Published on Academy of American Poets (

Etta's Elegy

for Etta Silver (1913–2013)		

This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where the book closes and the clock 
opens and the clock closes and the book 

opens to song so the snow geese murmur 
and the coyote swaggers along the aspens.

This is where the geese fly unabashedly out, 
and the sky turns white and wild with sound.

This is where tumult, this is where prophecy.
This is where the poem repents of language.

This is where the poem enters silence,
where the child holds the book in her lap  

whose pages are aflame with life, whose 
song sways with a usable truth, sorrowing.

And this is where the poem holds its breath, 
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where it leaps wild about the child,
where the snow geese seize the seamless sky

and the universe splits open for one poem—
the way a life lived calls on us to praise it.


Copyright © 2014 by Maureen Seaton. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 17, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

“Etta Silver read and loved poetry all her life. I loved her and she loved me. Her grandson, my friend, asked me to write a poem for her funeral. Inspired by Etta, and having just seen the snow geese fly out of the Bosque del Apache in southern New Mexico and heard the silence after they’d gone, I did.”
—Maureen Seaton


Maureen Seaton

Maureen Seaton is the author of six poetry collection, including Furious Cooking (University of Iowa Press, 1996), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize and the Lambda Literary Award.

Date Published: 2014-04-17

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