The Poet Orders His Tomb

By Edgar Bowers 1924–2000 Edgar Bowers
I summon up Panofskv from his bed   
    Among the famous dead
To build a tomb which, since I am not read,   
Suffers the stone’s mortality instead;

Which, by the common iconographies   
    Of simple visual ease,
Usurps the place of the complexities
Of sound survivors once preferred to noise:

Monkeys fixed on one bough, an almost holy   
    Nightmarish sloth, a tree
Of parrots in a pride of family,
Immortal skunks, unaromatically;

Some deaf bats in a cave, a porcupine   
    Quill-less, a superfine
Flightless eagle, and, after them, a line   
Of geese, unnavigating by design;

Dogs in the frozen haloes of their barks,   
    A hundred porous arks
Aground and lost, where elephants like quarks   
Ape mother mules or imitation sharks—

And each of them half-venerated by   
    A mob, impartially
Scaled, finned, or feathered, all before a dry   
Unable mouth, symmetrically awry.

But how shall I, in my brief space, describe   
    A tomb so vast, a tribe
So desperately existent for a scribe
Knowingly of the fashions’ diatribe,

I who have sought time’s memory afoot,   
    Grateful for every root
Of trees that fill the garden with their fruit,   
Their fragrance and their shade? Even as I do it,

I see myself unnoticed on the stair
    That, underneath a clear
Welcome of bells, had promised me a fair   
Attentive hearing’s joy, sometime, somewhere.

Edgar Bowers, “The Poet Orders His Tomb” from Collected Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). Copyright © 1997 by Edgar Bowers. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Edgar Bowers.

Source: Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)

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Poet Edgar Bowers 1924–2000

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Growing Old, Death, Animals, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire, Living, Nature, Arts & Sciences

Occasions Funerals

 Edgar  Bowers


Edgar Bowers was born in 1924 in Rome, Georgia and earned his BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Drafted into the army during World War II, he was active in the de-Nazification of Germany, and was stationed for a year at Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s retreat in the Alps. After the war, he earned his MA and PhD from Stanford, where he studied closely with Yvor Winters. Both his experiences of Europe during the war . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Death, Animals, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire, Living, Nature, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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