Elegy for the Shenandoah River
at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
The rivers meet become one and disappear
At the sea and the young find the solace
Of drugs and fucking. Falling-in-love
Is the story they tell later living a while
Maybe in misery or in joyful fits
Of circumstance dying off eventually
Leaving behind the meanings they made
Which dissolve in the rain over eons:
Houses and books and machines starting
To drizzle back into atoms loose like
Fires in the green bombast of the hillsides
And the town of Harpers Ferry and its
Brick walls full of bullets will go like this
River of forgetfulness where I am swimming
Tonight among the boulders in the cold
Because I am drunk and alone and hoping
To die to drown to be carried suddenly up
Side down blue screaming in the waters
Which has happened enough that death is part
Of what we celebrate here in the National Parks:
A perfect place to lie your body down in the dark.
Copyright © 2016 by Steve Scafidi. 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
"The National Parks are famous for providing privacy and beauty to the murderer and the suicide. The Shenandoah is a river I have lived near all of my life and it dies and vanishes at Harpers Ferry, a town just down the road from me. I thought I’d write an elegy for what rushes to its death at all times every day."
Steve Scafidi is the author of To the Bramble and the Briar (University of Arkansas Press, 2014), The Cabinetmaker's Window (Louisiana State University Press, 2014), For Love of Common Words (Louisiana State University Press, 2006), and Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer (Louisiana State University Press, 2001).
Date Published: 2016-10-20
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/elegy-shenandoah-river