Monday’s Verse, Jan. 18, 2010

Recognizing that today is the MLK, Jr., holiday, I deviate briefly from my course of remembrance for the recently deceased… but not from my overall theme of memory for the deceased.

Born in Lousiana in 1970, poet Kevin Young has been winning awards for a while now. He has, according to Lucille Clifton, the “gift of storytelling and understanding of the music inherent in the oral tradition of language” that “re-creates for us an inner history which is compelling and authentic and American.” Likely you will sense that as you connect his words here–written generally, and from the point of view of the eulogized–with the holiday’s namesake. Young updates his title by going with the general and modern “eulogy,” rather than the poetic, and somewhat archaic, “elegy”; believe it or not the two words come from two different Greek words, thought their meanings have sort of asymptotically approached each other over the centuries. Anyway. Kevin Young. MLK Day. Eulogy. -ed.

EULOGY

To allow silence
To admit it in us

always moving
Just past

senses, the darkness
What swallows us

and we live amongst
What lives amongst us

*

These grim anchors
That brief sanctity

the sea
Cast quite far

when you seek
—in your hats black

and kerchiefs—
to bury me

*

Do not weep
but once, and a long

time then
Thereafter eat till

your stomach spills over
No more! you’ll cry

too full for your eyes
to leak

*

The words will wait

*

Place me in a plain
pine box I have been

for years building
It is splinters

not silver
It is filled of hair

*

Even the tongues
of bells shall still

*

You who will bear
my body along

Spirit me into the six
Do not startle

at its lack of weight
How light

-2008

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