Aliki Barnstone: Elegy in the Second Person

Issue 87

–for Cliff Becker

Some say the pronoun is abused above all in addresses to the dead.
That would be you, dear friend. But if I don’t talk to you, I pretend

some golden bangles aslant on a stranger’s wrist don’t have me
admiring your daughter’s drawing, pulled from your breast pocket,

a pencil sketch of a dinosaur, a tractate in French carefully printed below,
her young hand still unused to writing, though too soon she’d be reciting

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” at your memorial. She loves gold—you doted on her so.
Some say too much. Too much, too soon your heart let you down, down

to the floor, mid-sentence as you spoke with your girl. I wonder what you said.
I don’t expect your answer. On second thought she recited “Reasons for Moving”

in your memory. The gold poem fit the jewelry you delighted to give her.
You see why I need to keep talking to you? If I keep your name lodged

always in my throat, ready for you to hear, you’ll be bold and tell me
a raunchy joke and laugh at your badness. If I’ve forgotten the punch line,

it doesn’t matter. I’m doubled over— oh, Cliff, oh, you, oh, Cliff.


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