Writing an Elegy

But so tangled in the branches they had to leave it, the conquistador’s
black beard cut from his head whose neck had snapped,
his deadness the others had to burn then, for the wind to take evenly away.
             If not for his lust, his sickness to chase, to claim her;
if not for that Native woman’s quick intelligence, out-climbing   ...    

             This is what I see: the Spanish moss
as convicted to its branches — gray, colonial,
but in my century now, suspended so close each vein might well be a whole, hanging
fiction of my mind. The moss
             is a fiction of my mind: a screen, swinging
on its gothic hinges, making the light fussier as it swags, giving not just the trees
but my idea of them a Medusa look. That man,

            I think, had wanted to feed something in himself
not worth feeding, had founded a world on it — 
                                                                                                     What is it
my mind wants to get at, always extending, hungering, looking
back, always tearing open again its own modernity,
as if each thought is more than the little present
moment it sounds like, but, raised at an angle, piercing me, having me imagine,
to build such antique violences in my head, it is a thorn? This moss
has been growing for ages now, can do nothing
but snag and grow   ...    What is it the mind won’t
unsee, beautiful flaw? In another version, the woman dies
and her husband
braids her hair
through the trees.

More Poems by Rickey Laurentiis