Elegy for the Living
Bothell, Washington, USA
Inglemoor High School
On this hazy August night, the blank swath of sky refuses
to grant me any promises. I fist the air with sticky fingers the way I used to
grab the leash around your neck, praying that something, anything, will tether you
here, within the sun’s line of sight—I give it a tug. There’s nothing I can do
but recoil this time. The momentum whispers to gravity, reminds it not to let me
off the hook again. As the wind cuts through me, all knives and steel as I
fall, I can’t help but think that maybe I was wrong
to keep you here, for making you live in a world that forces us
to the ground, to be slaves to the same dirt we’re made of, and maybe
you’re right and it hurts less when we no longer have physical bodies to hold
all that pain. Maybe. Maybe I should have told you all this before you
tore the leash with your teeth, tired of being bound to a power outside of
yourself. Maybe if I’d held on a bit tighter, or maybe if you were a bit more
afraid of God, you wouldn’t be running away from me now.
I say all this because I’m still searching for you, leash in hand, waiting
for the day I can press my ear to your heart and ask: how much more suffering
can one body bear before it collapses in on itself? Dawn doesn’t answer
but lets out a soft sigh, its wet breath waking me up for another day.
While the elegy typically functions as a lament or solace, “Elegy for the Living” is full of momentum—full of energy. The speaker in this poem grapples with the weight of living in a body, an act sometimes rendered helpless and unsettling. Yet, as dawn approaches after a long August night, we still persist, searching for our loved ones and the future our bodies hold.
Katie Li is a writer from Seattle, WA whose poetry also appears in Rust and Moth and Blue Marble Review, among others.
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