Elegy I.M. Mick Imlah
You were a world away; I had lost touch
some years ago, and we were never close;
I really had no special call to mourn.
But it struck me hard as an unseen low beam
– dull, sickening, a suddenly solid void –
on reading the obits, the notices:
news of a good man’s undeserved bad death,
denied all dignity and stigmatized
presenting signs; your diaphragm, so strong
when driving rhythms, forgot how to breathe,
and you passed like water into sand.
As Scotland keened, another voice fell still,
gathered to the shades before your time
regardless, folded in night’s quiet wing:
English, that took you for its avatar,
now that more narrow-minded and inane.
Poetry spoke you, as it does us all,
into being: now the song is done,
drowned out by mute clamour of dumb tongues
of headstones speaking silences, not words,
and grave earth stifles muffled epilogues.
So whether it’s my place or not to eulogize
in elegaics, I let your work speak
and leave your own words as your hero stone,
on your tongue, the dull obol, Charon’s fare,
alchemically transmuted into gold.