Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beyond FORM: Elegies 1995

It’s been a while. A while since I’ve written a blog post, a while since I’ve thought back to the darkest day of December 1988. With the death of Gadhafi, I’m back in Hartford CT, hearing over the phone from a close friend that a boy from Hartford, a Syracuse student we’d known at school who’d gone to London to study for a semester, has been killed in the bombing of Pan Am 103.

Today’s news also brings me back to the mid-1990s in Nashville, when I was a young mom trying to return to my creative writing roots by teaching myself to write poetry in forms. Sonnets, sestinas, villanelles were all new to me, offering the structure I needed as I sought to find my footing as a creative—rather than just a corporate—writer. In 1995, I wrote this triptych of elegies. When I submitted them to a literary journal that specialized in forms a few years later, an editor suggested I stick to lighter, more “domestic” issues for my lyric poetry.

More than 20 years since the bombing of Pan Am 103 and 16 years since I wrote these poems while my son napped, my son is in college, has a friend serving in Afghanistan, and has a relative
his cousin’s husbandwho became an Army Ranger shortly after he got married last year and has already served his first tour in the Middle East. An eloquent October 19 Facebook post by Colorado Springs author Barbara Samuel reminds us that, even if we don’t know anyone in the military, our soldiers continue to march off to wars “fought piecemeal all around / No longer reserved for the battleground.” Will it ever end?

Elegy I
For Harold Hart Crane (1899-1932)
Poised on the edge of an empowered age,
Despite youth, wise as a solemn sage,
Hart Crane agonized as this century
Succumbed to the rule of industry.

Trapped yet enraptured, he watched a bridge rise
From scraps to a vision brushing the sky,
Drew from this Brooklyn sight inspiration
To face his fears through their liberation:

Intense, in tune with his world’s path forward,
Into forms of phrasings his word he poured,
Lifting from yesterday’s fields of sorrow
Treasures for the day, hopes for the morrow.

His quest, while quelled as his name became known,
Haunted despite the promise he’d shown,
Or liberated him, and set him free
To leap to his death in the swirling sea.

A native son immortalized through lore,
He remains homeward bound forevermore,
Yet another wonder that somehow passed,
Too soon and too quickly, from our grasp.

Elegy II
For Turhan Michael Ergin (1966-1988)
Poised on a shadowed stage before his peers,
Contained, controlled despite his fears,
Turhan Ergin, a young student actor,
Breathed life into a brooding character.

For a brief, charged time he held spellbound
His silent audience in that tiny round,
With a performance that made evident
His passion for the art and his talent.

A lover of life, a bright dark-eyed star,
So sure his plans would take him far:
London studies, then home to celebrate
And greet the year in which he’d graduate.

But his return flight, Pan Am 103,
Over the Scottish town of Lockerbie,
Exploded in a fiery, mid-air shower,
A hellish testament to a madman’s power.

A beloved son lost on a distant shore,
He remains homeward bound forevermore,
Yet another wonder that somehow passed,
Too soon and too quickly, from our grasp.

Elegy III
Afterword - 1995
Poised in the century’s final decade,
I grieve for the towers Crane might have made,
And wonder where Turhan would be giving
His next performance, were he still living.

Could the poet possibly have foreseen
The painful potential of industry
In wars fought piecemeal all around,
No longer reserved for the battleground?

In just sixty years since Hart Crane’s death,
In conflicts of inconceivable breadth,
We’ve created a chilling legacy
Of bitter quests fueled by power and greed.

And each new bombing in New York, England,
Oklahoma, and the skies of Scotland,
Adds to the magnitude of our loss,
The final tally of human cost:

The number of beloved sons and daughters
Killed in our era of endless slaughters,
The countless wonders that have passed,
So soon and so quickly, from our grasp.


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