Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Politics of Elegy

like anyone i can make a list of the dead

i can make them my dead by making the list

i can write my name then name names below it 

i can craft & obfuscate & collapse

i can publish it

i can ask ‘who of us is left to tell their story?’

this land of plentitude & pens     

this land is my land, the song says, this land is mine

how long have humans buried each other in the earth

how long have we sung names into their absence

how long have we been paid for that singing

every architect expects people to inhabit their buildings

every poet pretends their poems to outlive them

every piece of furniture in my room is shaking its head

what’s the difference between weeping alone & on camera

what’s the gulf between an epitaph & an epic 

what’s a eulogy but a coin rising in the throat

eulogy from the greek means praise

praise from the latin means price

every public dirge is burning capital

every shirtless picture of him i keep is a small virgil 

every hell i’ve traveled through is an expensive bird in my mouth

i was paid a thousand dollars for writing a poem about a dead man who hated me

i was paid & each dollar is a ghost haunting my wallet

i was paid & i am trading his body for bags of food

i am never more dangerous than inside

the arms of a man

who will die

before me

Credit


Copyright © 2016 by sam sax. “Politics of Elegy” originally appeared in The Cortland Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Author


sam sax

sam sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series and forthcoming in 2017 from Penguin Books.

Date Published: 2017-10-23

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/politics-elegy