Glacier National Park and the Elegy
for Mike, July 2016
After Dale’s sudden cancer,
his body wasting swiftly to death,
I didn’t believe in love or beauty, or my ability
to write poems.
And my grieving turned into a sequence of writing
little hostile elegies
in solitary sittings. Elegies ceased being an elegant poetic form.
I guess I was trying to understand
the shape of a new sorrow in its deep
how easily it’s foraged for my marginalized hungers that
With it, figurative language estranged itself
from crafting mutable metaphors,
of the natural world standing
in its place within adjectival phrases.
Landscape, though permissible, seemed to only swell around
retaining rivers beneath my feet with a grave distance.
Bodies ensued to ashes now,
and I didn’t utter dust to dust.
Only after losing many months and time
I did (slowly) begin to notice a greener (faint) tint to the
This felt like a small divinity.
Finding you was this too,
after such importunate feelings of
I said this is a remarkable lightness I feel, I couldn’t imagine it
before I felt it.
You told me to look at the moon. I did.
That’s what you did after Marie died.
You believed all moons in the sky to be
elegiac in a nonfigurative sense,
real to the eye,
therefore, you represented its steadfast truth.
I proposed then a drive to Glacier National
thinking of a fine faultless finery—the firs, pines, and
We drove up—higher than I expected—
skyward up the steepest corners and edges
and I looked out at spring’s sustenance,
of forest trees scored in majestic columns, bedded
coated with needles, fully medicinal,
their similes shedding: of giving over the live
to its eminence. Of the mountain’s height,
its splendor-drop because of its scare
I felt hesitant to look out.
But for descriptors: the rounded grass tufts
near the car grates then a hell-drop,
a belt of green.
Stones and gravel and gray peeking
This driving with you is a climb of faith,
and I feel it along with a helpless irritation of lust
in my throat
and gut, and a pair of callous and ashen calves and feet I seem
to have earned.
You helped me through a dry summer, fall, winter
and now summer.
Ten months after he died. He and I, all these years,
had never gone to Glacier,
only near it to Flathead or Whitefish, to fireplace lodges
I brought you to the Weeping
where we turned around, because you drove still further
until I threatened fear of heights.
I don’t know how to celebrate 100 years
this high up but you do.
This winding high-up national park with me:
your glasses cocked on your head,
a strange visor of blackish hair,
erect lens outward but modest
two circles looking above my direction
at the field of Beargrass, with its white stalks
and awkward loomed light.
I was unable to get out of the car at Heaven’s Peak,
because the sublime was frightening
but I crawled around the side and peered over, and I knew
I would never use the word Heaven
to describe anything I saw of death, but I saw beauty
in a scrap of its light
I was not afraid
of it taking me with it, the way I had seen him disappear
its extinguishing erasure.
I hold you in Glacier
where I see you clearly.
I will plow the hard-won truth of pitching death
and flinging its burden into spaces.
No treason I feel now (because)
the eros of the natural world lingers in sentience,
flooding with its central question of what (life and death)
I held onto the silver bumper of your car gripping your
because it was your hand and you, too, were
behind frank light and squinting
to see into a camera’s moon,
a lasting present tense
we just gave ourselves over to, lifted to
its blue course: a formal sky of imperturbable
of unambiguous secularity.
We take a simple walk around the car
Copyright © 2016 by Prageeta Sharma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.
About this Poem
“In this poem I was grieving still (I don’t know if one stops, but raw grieving gives over to a different sort) and also falling in love with a widower who had helped me through it. I was also starting to teach again, which was hard because I had lost some of the meaning of why I wrote poetry and what it meant to capture its form or formlessness. I was grateful to take on the assignment of writing a poem and figuring out what it could hold. I was also humbled by the beauty and stillness of the park. During my drive and walk through it, although I am terrified of heights, it comforted me with its stillness, which was a mysterious and new feeling.”
Prageeta Sharma is the author of Undergloom (Fence Books, 2013); Infamous Landscapes (Fence Books, 2007); The Opening Question (Fence Books, 2004), winner of the 2004 Fence Modern Poets Prize; and Bliss to Fill (Subpress Collective, 2000).
Date Published: 2016-11-17
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/glacier-national-park-and-elegy-0