New Year Elegy



In some cultures, clocks are stopped

when there’s a death in the family.


My wristwatch insists on ticking.





How to write an elegy,

at the top of the page.

Consider whom to address—

the deceased or the bereaved—

what verb tense to use,

whether you can immerse

yourself in the language of grief

without flailing.





How can you not be present while tonight’s fireworks

cheer up the sky like a young girl’s pom poms,

like jackstones whirling before the starry descent?





She hurled the ball and stones

into a trash can years ago,

rejecting her loss the way

she refused the blindfold,

the bluff. Here lies the girl

who turned the pages of a book

while we salvaged her toys

and stood still behind doors,

not wanting our bodies

to be touched and identified.






Between Christmas and the cemetery

was a long night, a phone ringing in the still of it,

a voice quivering to the cusp


of a goodbye, a gunshot muffled by tinted windows,

pillowed dreams. Here’s where it ends,

says her limp hand. Here’s the lengthy epilogue


where the rest of us grope for a lamp each night

as if it were an explanation, begging her to emerge

from the shadows of our interrupted sleep.





Since you were a master of the angle, the frame,

let’s play a game. Use this scene to shoot


an episode called How easily guilt festers

into blame. Would you pan across the chapel


and zoom in on your ex-lovers muttering

in their separate corners? There she is,


your last beloved, hesitating by the door.

There’s our uncle, blowing cigarette smoke


in her face, a signal for us to walk out.

Whom would you have called the culprit/s?







Fact: more people die

during the holiday season

than at any other time of the year.

Evidence: other mourners filling up

this hallway, that bathroom.


In the next chapel: men guffawing,

keeping their dead company

with a bottle of gin, getting drunker

by the minute in another dialect.


I march up to them. Let me in

on the joke, I say. They look

like they’ve just seen a ghost.





Endings are my specialty. What keeps me going

is not faith, but curiosity. Here’s to us who see

the stories through, whose victories are few,

who wish to shake her awake in the casket,

to slap the hands of strangers’ children

pointing to where the bullet

had burrowed its way in.





A tumor lodges its way into the head, like a bullet.

A bullet lodges its way into the head, like a tumor.


We were taught to read well: if a character suffers

frequent headaches, they must be critical. If a gun


is introduced, it must go off before the story ends.

Such eager students, obeying the rules of the narrative.









What would you like us to revise

now that you are simply a she,

was? Shall we say you joined us

in the next game two decades ago?

That you believed in an elsewhere

with popcorn and front row seats

to the rest of our lives? On this side

of the screen, we count the seconds

down to the new year, while fireworks

keep falling from the face of the sky

and new ones keep shooting up

like thrown jackstones before being

picked up and kept warm in someone’s

hand, one tiny piece at a time.

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