Small Elegy

By Reginald Gibbons b. 1947 Reginald Gibbons
Someone has left us now
before we have even touched hands.

Getting lost in the pity of it
sweeps you into an unknown stretch
of canyon where oars thud
against rock and rip free, you clutch
at help, and even though   
you save yourself, the river   
funnels through the gorge   
and roars, roars, roars.
Regret, a backwash of pain,   
one lost life swirls down rapids,   
rushes away, out of reach.

It’s not forgetting that you want —   
it would be easy to drop
one shoulder and dive, to come up   
gasping in a car on the way to work   
or blue in the face over the dishpan   
staring for who knows how long
at a cup scoured clean under the suds.   
And not remembering.

But the absence that is born
must live as long as a man or a woman.   
There: it comes invisible headfirst,
a bloodstreaked nothing, and is flushed away.   
While in the white room the dry light   
is cold; and waiting to be taken home   
mute ghosts lie in a row of empty cribs.

Reginald Gibbons, “Small Elegy” from The Ruined Motel. Copyright © 1981 by Reginald Gibbons. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: The Ruined Motel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981)

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Poet Reginald Gibbons b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Sorrow & Grieving

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Elegy

 Reginald  Gibbons


Born and raised in Houston, Reginald Gibbons earned his BA in Spanish and Portuguese from Princeton University, and both his MA in English and creative writing and his PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University.

Gibbons is the author of more than half a dozen collections of poetry, including Sparrow: New and Selected Poems (1997), winner of the Balcones Poetry Prize, and Creatures of a Day (2008), finalist for the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Sorrow & Grieving

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Elegy

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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