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Jane Satterfield

BPR 40 | 2013

"Too much life to kill." — Muriel Rukeyser

Good friends who wish for a resurrection
spell often employ elegy — from antiquity
a song or mourning or lamentation. If I
conjure formal feeling, shards of ritual, kin,
forgive me, too keen to call the lost one
to cross over. To keen is to cry, weep, wail
at all that's beyond our ken. Breath,
blood, bone.
The universe at odds
with our will. How the hardest thing
in this world is to live in it. If a spell
requires skillful practitioners, I'm sure
I'll come up short. For elegy spells
loss, a succession of lines penciled
over fine paper which must possess
exactly the right surface to support
details and precise tonal gradations — scatter
of laughter, a few blue skinks
across a stone wall or stalled there
in a blade of late afternoon light. Let's draw
a protective circle at night, put
on the kettle to brew. Who's to say
any moment you won't breeze back
into the studio kitchen. Half-shriek,
half-song, outlawed and outmoded,
in eyewitness accounts the keen
lives on, a choral practice that came
to accommodate all manner
of praise and social critique. From antiquity,
these stagey ways to garb
our grief. Spell me with something
auspicious, a glass of said ale, Abbey style,
with its five types of barley malt, and the
dormant hops the brewmaster brought back.
To life and afterlife. Bottle
or can, flavorful and not too sweet.