For the Executive Director of the Fallen

By Tom Sleigh b. 1953 Tom Sleigh

In memoriam Liam Rector

The little boy crying out
Weenie Weenie
in self-panicking delight,
waving his little cock
under the banner

of the sun, seemed pure Blake,
all anarchy and energy,
an innocence unfrightened
of itself that shook the lake's
waters and unsettled

the strained composures
and appointed certainties
of whatever Absolute Speaker
had been ranting in my brain:
Peace Through Strength

Justice Must Be Ours
so many demon faces
in the glass city.
Each pubic triangle
seemed, under the bathing suits,

to grow electrical and crackle
with a sexual shock
that made me turn my face away:
and who should be there
but you, my dear Lord of Misrule,

blowing smoke in all our faces,
the clean bullet hole in your forehead
above your self-ironic smile:
Don't let the monkeys   
stop typing

and after I swam
and I was sitting on the bank,
after the boy and his parents
had packed up and gone home,
I played the Noh play over for you

in the tape loop of the void
where your voice and laughter
so casually reside:
how the mother
gone searching for her

missing son finds him dancing
by the lake, and as she tries
to   hold him he slips through
her arms just as she slips   
through his arms—

and as she cries out
in perfect pitch in perfect time
to the shrieking bamboo flute
that her boy has drowned
she understands that she too   

has drowned, that she too
is a ghost returning   
to dance as they   
dance together in a tighter   
and tighter round.

Source: Poetry (June 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2008
 Tom  Sleigh


Tom Sleigh is the author of more than half a dozen volumes of poetry. Space Walk (2007) won the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Award and earned Sleigh considerable critical acclaim. Referring to this collection, poet Philip Levine noted, “Sleigh’s reviewers use words such as ‘adept,’ ‘elegant,’ and ‘classical.’ Reading his new book, I find all those terms beside the point, even though not one is inaccurate. I am struck by the human dramas . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Relationships, Love, Social Commentaries, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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