Elegy for Alice
I always assumed you were somewhere in the
And that someday we’d find each other again
And tell our adventures, like happy heroes
Reunited after years of wandering.
Hard to believe it’s been a dozen years
Since we slogged together through the Iliad,
Longer than the whole of the Trojan War,
Or the wanderings of Odysseus afterward.
When your mother told me you were dead,
All I could think about was our favorite verb,
9X88T, our rueful shorthand for regret,
To be about to do, but leave undone.
"I meant," you’d say, "to study Greek last night,"
And I’d reply, "I too, O Agathon,
Intended to accomplish many things
Before the light of rosy-fingered dawn."
And now it’s seven years that you’ve been gone.
While I was living my ordinary life,
And carelessly, fondly imagining you in yours,
(Losing, in one of my many moves, the funny,
Wonderful letters you wrote me from Mexico),
I never dreamed that you would not grow old,
That time had stopped for you as suddenly
As for the daughters of weeping Hekabe
In burning Troy—the unremembered ones
You summoned from the ashes in the fall
Of 1983, when you were asked
To translate the catalogue of Priam’s sons.
Hard to believe that you will not return
And tell your adventures in the other world,
No matter how tenderly I brush the dead
Leaves from your sleeping face, and call your name.
Free Time, Robert L. Barth, publisher, ©
originally published in The Dark Horse
Reprinted by permission of the author.
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