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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 17, 2016.
About this Poem 

“In this poem I was grieving still (I don’t know if one stops, but raw grieving gives over to a different sort) and also falling in love with a widower who had helped me through it. I was also starting to teach again, which was hard because I had lost some of the meaning of why I wrote poetry and what it meant to capture its form or formlessness. I was grateful to take on the assignment of writing a poem and figuring out what it could hold. I was also humbled by the beauty and stillness of the park. During my drive and walk through it, although I am terrified of heights, it comforted me with its stillness, which was a mysterious and new feeling.”
—Prageeta Sharma

Glacier National Park and the Elegy

for Mike, July 2016


        After Dale’s sudden cancer,    
                                                   his body wasting swiftly to death,
        I didn’t believe in love or beauty,                          or my ability
                    to write poems.
                        And my grieving turned into a sequence of                                                writing 
                                   little hostile elegies
        in solitary sittings.                      Elegies ceased being an                             elegant poetic form.
                                                I guess I was trying to understand  
                                      the shape of a new sorrow in its deep
                                            recognizance; 
        how easily it’s foraged for my marginalized hungers that
                   felt      
                                    legitimately nullified.
        With it, figurative language estranged itself
        from crafting mutable metaphors,
                    of the natural world standing
                                            in its place within adjectival phrases.

Landscape, though permissible, seemed to only swell around 
        retaining rivers beneath my feet with a grave distance.
  Bodies ensued to ashes now,
                         and I didn’t utter dust to dust.
                                        Only after losing many months and time
        I did (slowly) begin to notice a greener (faint) tint to the
                    sunlight.

                                                          This felt like a small divinity.
***

        Finding you was this too,
                                 after such importunate feelings of
                                            abandonment.

I said this is a  remarkable lightness I feel, I couldn’t imagine it
        before I felt it.
 
        You told me to look at the moon.  I did.

        That’s what you did after Marie died.

        You believed all moons in the sky to be
                                             elegiac in a nonfigurative sense,
                                                        real to the eye,
                      therefore, you represented its steadfast truth. 

                                   I proposed then a drive to Glacier National
                                            Park
        thinking of a fine faultless finery—the firs, pines, and
                    stillness.

                                     We drove up—higher than I expected—
        skyward up the steepest corners and edges
                   and I looked out at spring’s     sustenance,
                                                                        an earthwork
                   of forest trees scored in majestic columns, bedded
                                and wooded,
        coated with needles, fully medicinal, 

                   their similes shedding: of giving over the live
                               forested body
        to its eminence.            Of the mountain’s height,
                                    its splendor-drop because of its scare
                                            quality.  
                                                   I felt hesitant to look out. 
        But for descriptors: the rounded grass tufts 
                                  near the car grates  then a hell-drop,
                         a belt of green.
                                                    Stones and gravel and gray peeking
                                                        though.

                                          This driving with you is a climb of faith,
                                            I think,
                        and I feel it along with a helpless irritation of lust
                                in my throat
and gut, and a pair of callous and ashen calves and feet I seem
                                      to have earned.

                            You helped me through a dry summer, fall,                                                winter
        and now                     summer.
        Ten months after he died.  He and I, all these years,
        had never gone to Glacier, 
        only near it to Flathead or Whitefish, to fireplace lodges
                    tucked away.

                                                          I brought you to the Weeping
                                                                    Walls,
        where we turned around,  because you drove still further
        until I threatened fear of heights.
                       I don’t know how to celebrate 100  years
                                                this high up but you do.

        This winding high-up national park with me:
                                   your glasses cocked on your head,
        a strange visor of blackish hair,
                                    camera chest-centered,
                        erect lens outward but modest
                                         two circles looking above my direction
                        at the field of  Beargrass, with its white stalks
        and awkward loomed light.
        I was unable to get out of the car at Heaven’s Peak,
                      because the sublime was frightening
        but I crawled around the side and peered over, and I knew
        I would never use the word               Heaven 
        to describe anything I saw of death, but I saw beauty
                        in a scrap of its light
                                        I was not afraid
        of it taking me with it, the way I had seen him disappear
                    into illness,
                           its extinguishing erasure.

***

I hold you in Glacier 
        where I see you clearly.   

        I will plow the hard-won truth of pitching death
        and flinging its burden into spaces.
        No treason I feel            now (because)
        the eros of the natural world lingers in sentience,

        flooding with its central question of what (life and death)
                       collectively crushes.

        I held onto the silver bumper of your car gripping your
                    hand
        because it was                   your hand and you, too, were
                    silvery
                            behind frank light and squinting
                                             to see into a camera’s moon,
                                                                           a lasting present tense
                                             we just gave ourselves over to, lifted to
                                                     case
                            its blue course: a formal sky of imperturbable
                                clouds,
                                         of unambiguous secularity.

                                         We take a simple walk around the car
                                                 now. 


 


 

Copyright © 2016 by Prageeta Sharma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Copyright © 2016 by Prageeta Sharma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Prageeta Sharma

Prageeta Sharma

Prageeta Sharma is the author of Undergloom (Fence Books, 2013); Infamous Landscapes (Fence Books, 2007); The Opening Question (Fence Books, 2004), winner of the 2004 Fence Modern Poets Prize; and Bliss to Fill (Subpress Collective, 2000).

by this poet

poem
All this noisy commotion isolated a fairly
small universe of nothing special.
I had faced the assistant to the incumbent, 
his failed face of poetry bottomless 
with self-pride and a satisfaction that fed his wolf. 
And he was a wolf
and when I scoffed at him 
with some penetration I could see the clamor 
of his
poem
I find ways to keep a sense of peace
but it is not always easy; for example,
I can't keep my questions tempered.
What kind of sun expounds its rays
upon the hills but then mutes
like an ordinary bulb, small
and self-contained?
Moreover, what moon filters
the blistering whiteness of
snow so that it can only be