By: Benjamin Rose
An elegy for my youth
Would that this house were forever empty
And unending Winter never knew thaw,
That I might bear my grief for an era
Under the false candelabra’s red glow
That lines the dining room table, and gives
No heat from its cold and delusive flames
Fed by a switch, as though fire itself
Holds in abeyance its warmth from the room.
All thoughts of now and future are banished
Into the shade beyond the electric
Candles’ remit, and time forsaken
Falls into twilight, and falls into naught
But the knotted nerves groaning in my chest,
For tonight I bear the heart of a child
Within my ribs, and trembling fingers
Strain in whatever rude measures they may
To speak what it was to be young, when joy
And hope were limitless. Hope without bound
Was fed by innocence, and on the green
Lawn of the farm in North Carolina
Where my Grandfather raised cattle, I ran,
A child of six as blithe as a halfling,
And hunted dinosaurs in the deep woods,
And played at hero. Age was a shadow,
Wan and vague and as vaporous as mist.
I knew not then what weeping would follow,
Though somehow, I guessed no joy without pain
Could be in this world, and sometimes I’d find
Myself, out of nowhere, suddenly sad
Whenever a heartbroken song would sound
On the radio, even when outside
The window of my grandparents’ house,
The sky was blue and Spring was in riot,
Latest Spring, or those early Summer days
In June, when the elementary school term
Ended, and I was set at liberty.
Then…I grew old, and the long years of dearth
Befell, until Poppa passed away, and
That verdant land that had once been my Shire
Was sold off; until my dad raged at me
For cowardice and failure, and young boys
Mocked me for a fat and ludicrous thing,
Cacophonous, weeping, always alone.
I remember wandering the playground
As the Autumn sun burned overhead, lost
In my thoughts, numb and oblivious
To those around me, and the girl who groped
Me at a water park at summer camp,
Till the rage within congealed in silence,
And I spent many years as though my tongue
Were ripped out, so that at seventeen I
Could scarcely hold down a conversation,
Nor hold a man’s eye without quivering.
I remember love, and women, and all
Those sad palpitations of hollow lust
That began in rose and died in canker,
Glass incisions and the bellow of hate;
Pills, residentials, psych wards, wilderness,
Sobbing, grief, masturbation, alcohol,
And, at the end of all things, gazing out
From the tomb of my mother’s living room
Couch at the carven abyss of the mantelpiece,
Insensate as death, too weak to whimper.
What is the balm and merit of these tears,
Here in the gathering December gloom
When my rage has deserted me, and all
My guilt, impaled through my heart like a screw,
Bleeds in a flood within unquenchable
As though it could warm the winter in thaw?
Shall they salvage a single life, or save
Even my own from the maw of darkness,
Rather than run in a wet monument
To flatter my woe and the springs of vanity?
I don’t know; who can say in this transient life
What remains when Death takes us by the hand
And the gray veil of this world falls away
To a far green country under a swift sunrise?
Tonight it remains unanswerable;
But, as we weep our Winter into thaw,
And the shadows lengthen toward the solstice,
Towards Midinváerne, and the embrace of dusk,
When the world fades in ever-during night,
Stand with me here, my infant brother, and
Let us see beyond the pale of our grief
The light of a hundred trees at Christmas,
When Poppa would garb the lawn of the farm
With splendor, and if I had any faith
In Law, or angels, or Nazarene Gods,
It was then…
Hold fast to me boy, and I’ll carry you,
Here through fire at the end of all things,
As over the sky the white flare trembles.
I love you, Benjamin, and I always will.
Benjamin Rose is a poet born and raised in the D.C. area and the author of The Road Of Glass and Gardens And Graves. Since 2021, 20 of his poems have been published online or in print, primarily at The Dillydoun Review, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, and Cathexis Northwest Press. He studies English Literature at the Catholic University of America (Class of 2023).