Pick-a-Poem: “Elegy”


Hello, readers! Welcome to another edition of “pick-a-poem.” If you’re looking for some rhyme and verse, you’ve come to the right place. Although, of course, the poems we feature may not always rhyme. This week’s poem comes, as always, from Poetry Daily. Check out their site, it’s got some great poetry every day — as the name implies. And this week we have a poem called Elegy by Vijay Seshadri. It’s a very interesting poem, in which almost every line ends with a period. It gives the poem a very staccato feeling and there are also some great images in here.

According to his page at Poets.org, Vijay Seshadri has written several collections of poems, including The Long Meadow (Graywolf Press, 2004) and Wild Kingdom (1996). His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in AGNI, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Threepenny Review, the Times Book Review, and TriQuarterly. Seshadri has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has been awarded The Paris Review‘s Bernard F. Conners Long Poem Prize and the MacDowell Colony’s Fellowship for Distinguished Poetic Achievement.

Elegy, by Vijay Seshadri

I’ve been asked to instruct you about the town you’ve gone to,
where I’ve never been.
The cathedral is worth looking at,
but the streets are narrow, uneven, and a little grim.
The river is sluggish in the summer and muddy in the spring.
The cottage industries are obsolete.
The population numbers one.

The population numbers one fugitive
who slips into the shadows and haunts the belfries.
His half-eaten meals are cold on the empty café tables.
His page of unsolved equations is blowing down the cobblestones.
His death was so unjust that he can’t forgive himself.
He waits for his life to catch up to him.

He is you and you and you.
You will look to him for your expiation,
face him in the revolving door, sit with him in the plaza
and soothe his fears and sympathize with his story
and accustom him to the overwhelming sun
until his death becomes your death.
You will restore his confiscated minutes to him one by one.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s poem. For more of these, trawl through our archives!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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