Writing in Form: The Elegy

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Musings on Writing and Life.

Grief. Sadness. Loss. All of these emotions lend themselves to expression in poetry even as we find ourselves desperately searching for words. Often such an occasion calls for the somber, elevated language of the elegy. This elegy has an important epigraph giving context as to the reason for this Buddhist funeral ceremony in northern Thailand of a dear, dear friend. This poem was published online in riverbabble 27 in June 2015. It also received Honorable Mention in the Dueling Judges category of the Oregon Poetry Association’s Spring 2015 contest.

Pulling the Rope

an elegy for Thaeng
one of the bridegrooms who wed on our Corvallis deck during the window
when same-sex marriage was legal in Oregon (April 2004)
— dead a decade later at the age of 44

past paddies of ripening rice stream
barefoot, chanting monks,
a saffron-robed beneficent sea

their loud-speaker sermons beamed
to the village where the bereaved
pour water and it spills

an overflowing cup,
rivers for your rebirth,
to the dirt all

offerings — the merit made
with prayer, with wais
of two pressed palms

and then the march,
processional funeral throng
of footfalls up and down

more than a mile
before the open place
for burning — a field

the crematorium with its tiled
straw-swept steps

your casket following behind
on a flatbed tied to
so many people walking

so many people pulling
the ropes, their bodies bringing
you along, your final

journey to the new — begin
with smoke, arise,

The public domain image above is of the native wildflower, prairie smoke. It blooms in the spring. This photo was taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Cornell Waterfowl Production Area in the Kulm Wetland Management District, North Dakota.

Nancy Flynn
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