When the poem is the elegy and the elegy is the memoir: Gabriel: A Poem/Edward Hirsch

Thursday, January 22, 2015

This morning, before the gears on the work-a-day-world began to turn in earnest, I read "Gabriel: A Poem," Edward Hirsch's book-length elegy for his departed son.

It is hallowed and hollowing, a work of pristine mourning. Memories seamed and broken. Threads that fall away until we see the soul of the boy himself— adopted, challenged by tics and relentless recklessness, the bright splash in a room. He is a child no one can keep safe from himself. A child who goes out during Storm Irene to a party he sees advertised on Craigslist. A child who does not return and cannot be found for four terrible days.

And then he must be buried.

It ransacks the soul, reading a book like this. We peel away as the lines peel away; no periods at the end of any line, no finished sentences. We look and we cannot stop looking until Gabriel, and his searching father, are a part of us.

It is a poem. It is also memoir. Like Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming it suggests, again, another form for the hardest and most important stories lived. The most important things lost and lifted to the page.


In his country
There were scenes
Of spectacular carnage

Hurricanes welcomed him
He adored typhoons and tornadoes
Furies unleashed

Houses lifted up
And carried to the sea
Uncontained uncontainable

Unbolt the doors
Fling open the gates
Here he comes

Chaotic wind of the gods
He was trouble
But he was our trouble
With thanks to Nathaniel Popkin, whose craft essay in Cleaver Magazine last week reminded me that I had meant to buy and read this.


Serena said...

I have been meaning to get a hold of that collection!

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