Anne Stevenson

1933 / Cambridge,

Elegy: In Coherent Light

Teach-cheap, teach-cheap, teach-cheap, teach-cheap—
Sparrows are plying their chisels in the summer ivy,
Chipping the seconds spark by spark out of the hours.
I read in each whistling chip the sun's holography.
My brain's a film, I'm made of timed exposures,
And pounding my ears and eyes with waves of light—
These animate flakes, these pictures I call sight.

But now you're out of the picture, no one can keep
Coherent sightings of you, except in language.
All the warm rhetoric is wrong. Death isn't sleep.
Faith in eternal love is love's indulgence.
I prize what you wrote and meet you in what I write.
We still keep house in a living tenement of words.
Pull down their walls of ivy, and you kill the birds.
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