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Elegy for Alice


I always assumed you were somewhere in the world,

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.


Catherine Tufariello



From Free Time, Robert L. Barth, publisher, © 2001;
originally published in The Dark Horse (Scotland).
Reprinted by permission of the author.

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