ELEGY WITH NO ONE SPEAKING
By Justin Belote
Now that all the wasps are gone
and the hive is a silent town,
I can sleep out under this elm again.
I would like to explain how a house
someone has just been found hanging in
becomes different, as if the rooms widen and gape
yet hold less air. Outside
the gardenias darken in late afternoon
and sag in the rain. The light
landing on their petals is somehow unlike the light that lands
on the dead, but I don’t know why.
And above the white flowers a spider
can continue breathing quietly
and never know the difference.
its web, strung in a dogwood, waits for flies.
In 1981 my parents graduated from college.
Everything on the east coast
seemed quieter and heavier and naked.
All through August it was ninety and raining and I think
if my father had then stood perfectly still
before a tunnel full of wet leaves
and looked far into that darkness, he would never speak
again. But what I need to know is
when I’m fifty, will I remember how it felt
to be twenty-three and lonely in Boston?
Will I think of that park bench
and how all summer I counted the lights going out
in the apartments that surrounded me. The Charles
river to my back, dark and blind.
And, now, in this kitchen with its white curtains
and sink I watch an ant crawl on the table,
then up the window, and all I can be certain of is that
if I lean close enough to anything and close my eyes,
I can smell the dead. By winter
the snow will quiet everything
and teeth will blacken in their skulls
like mirrors that reflect the night. A night
that nobody owns, where the stars are a voiceless
closet that I could walk into thirty years from now,
folding a hanger carefully, and never walk out of.
And if you were to find me then
and turn and leave without ever looking up,
you would not notice the sky
and the black hole that opened and yawned over everything
as if it is a cold house that even silence
Justin Belote is currently a MFA candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University. Some of his favorite poets are Larry Levis, Li-Young Lee, Ilya Kaminsky, Virginia Slachman, and Georg Trakl. He has been published in Adroit Journal and The Cortland Review, and has a poem appearing in Meade Magazine shortly.
Editor’s Note: I think if you were to type the word “lyric” into the search box in the upper right corner of this page the results would yield hundreds of entries in this Saturday Poetry Series. Why? Because I love the lyric. I am a defender of the lyric. Viva la lírica! Long live this tradition with tendrilic roots stretching back back to the first musical utterances of man and with gardenias blooming on the lips of poets like Justin Belote.
What do I love about the lyric? “I would like to explain how a house / someone has just been found hanging in / becomes different, as if the rooms widen and gape / yet hold less air. Outside / the gardenias darken in late afternoon / and sag in the rain. The light / landing on their petals is somehow unlike the light that lands / on the dead, but I don’t know why.” Need I say more?
Want to see more by and about Justin Belote?
Hear Justin Belote read today’s poem aloud at The Cortland Review
Justin Belote’s Official Blog
Some poems by Justin, featured on his blog