Pretty Polly

Jane Springer

 
Who made the banjo sad & wrong?
Who made the luckless girl & hell bound boy?
Who made the ballad? The one, I mean,
where lovers gallop down mountain brush as though in love—
where hooves break ground to blood earth scent.
Who gave the boy swift words to woo the girl from home,
& the girl too pretty to leave alone? He locks one arm
beneath her breasts as they ride on—maybe her apron comes
undone & falls to a ditch of black-eyed susans. Maybe
she dreams the clouds are so much flour spilt on heaven's table.
I've run the dark county of the heart this music comes from—but
I don't know where to hammer-on or to drop a thumb to the
haunted string that sets the story straight: All night Willie's dug
on Polly's grave with a silver spade & every creek they cross
makes one last splash. Though flocks of swallows loom—the one
hung in cedar now will score the girl's last thrill. Tell
me, why do I love this sawmill-tuned melancholy song
& thud of knuckles darkening the banjo face?
Tell me how to erase the ancient, violent beauty
in the devil of not loving what we love.
 
From Murder Ballad by Jane Springer. Copyright © 2012 by Jane Springer. Reprinted with permission of Alice James Books. All rights reserved.

Further Reading

Poems About Tragedy and Grief
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Adonais, 49-52, [Go thou to Rome]
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I [To be, or not to be]
by William Shakespeare
Against Elegies
by Marilyn Hacker
Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
by Martín Espada
Arise, Go Down
by Li-Young Lee
Assault to Abjury
by Raymond McDaniel
Before
by Carl Adamshick
Breaking Across Us Now
by Katie Ford
Curtains
by Ruth Stone
Day of Grief
by Gerald Stern
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
December, 1919
by Claude McKay
Easter 1916
by W. B. Yeats
Eulogy
by Kevin Young
Facing It
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Fairbanks Under the Solstice
by John Haines
here rests
by Lucille Clifton
Hum
by Ann Lauterbach
I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias
I Found Her Out There
by Thomas Hardy
I measure every Grief I meet (561)
by Emily Dickinson
I Pack Her Suitcase with Sticks, Light the Tinder, and Shut the Lid
by Rob Schlegel
Imagine
by Kamilah Aisha Moon
In Louisiana
by Albert Bigelow Paine
Lycidas
by John Milton
Memorial Day for the War Dead
by Yehuda Amichai
On His Deceased Wife
by John Milton
Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Quiet Mourning
by Laura Moriarty
Requiescat
by Matthew Arnold
Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Rose Aylmer
by Walter Savage Landor
September 1, 1939
by W. H. Auden
Song ["When I am dead, my dearest"]
by Christina Rossetti
Stillbirth
by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Surprised By Joy
by William Wordsworth
That This
by Susan Howe
The Dead
by Joan Aleshire
The Gaffe
by C. K. Williams
The Hour and What Is Dead
by Li-Young Lee
The Not Tale (Funeral)
by Caroline Bergvall
The Second Coming
by W. B. Yeats
The Stolen Child
by W. B. Yeats
The Widow's Lament in Springtime
by William Carlos Williams
The Words Under the Words
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Tigers
by Melissa Ginsburg
To W.C.W. M.D.
by Alfred Kreymborg