Mary Jo Bang - Elegy
Begins with hints of menace, birth violence first, then
Struggle ensues until: At last,
The hero or heroine pulls a sword and then
There is the blood that signs the end
Of life as we knew it—afraid and more
Afraid. Darling sleep and Doris Day
Cheerfulness now follows
Us to the other end
Which is happy and handholding.
But eventually we wake to No (know)
It’s only sleep so must be done again.
The story circles
Its tail, just missing its mouth, over and over,
A moving production of At last, At last, At last—
Each At Last followed by waking
To a day and dodging the enemy which looks like a face
In a mirror—two ears, two eyes, and an act.
Until we get to feeling
Who cares anymore
About virtuosity and we lay down the sword
And say to the ghost we are given it up,
We are stopping. And we do
And finally we are happy after—and finally
Fatally so. Please close the game board.
Please hide the little pieces.
Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy is almost out (amazon.com says October). I’ve been eagerly awaiting it since I first started seeing the poems appearing in journals. “The Game” is from LUNA. You can find out more about LUNA here:
Here’s what Graywolf (the publisher) says about Elegy:
Mary Jo Bang’s fifth collection, Elegy, chronicles the year following the death of her son. By weaving the particulars of her own loss into a tapestry that also contains the elements common to all losses, Bang creates something far larger than a mere lament. Continually in search of an adequate metaphor for the most profound and private grief, the poems in Elegy confront, in stark terms and with a resilient voice, how memory haunts the living and brings the dead back to life. Within these intimate and personal poems is a persistently urgent, and deeply touching, examination of grief itself.
Here’s what I say:
Mary Jo Bang has been one of the poets I’ve been reading closely for something like ten years now. Her poetry has always been working to extend the edges of perception into the shifting areas of self and other. Louise in Love, with its characters, and the ekphrastic The Eye Like a Strange Balloon, most notably. The poems I’ve seen so far (about fifteen or so) from Elegy feel at once like poems written by Mary Jo Bang, and yet unlike poems from any of her previous books. I’m looking forward to October.