Janine Certo: “Elegy for W.S. Merwin”


That day, my dim office turned
cold as if someone left
the shutters gaping
like wings. Firetails
retreated to their favorite
roosting places. The one

bat hung from the eaves
like a pendant light.
Later, strange quietude,
the clouded night tipping
a hat. A falcon seized
a pigeon whose body

twisted to petals, jadeite,
opened to a silk Vietnamese
fan. It was like the end
of the year, dark and wind
at their peak—everything
punctuated by nothing,

save swirling translations
of rage and love, love
and despair. Over nature’s
carols, odes, roundels,
and ballads, I stood up to find
lines: meadow, the other side,

and hoped he was right.
Stones crowded river
beds like human greed.
No, it was grief.
Somewhere, a man takes
a solitary walk

after garden work.
There is wood smoke, birdsong,
a pineapple pulled from a grove—
the jacket opened,
a forest of waxed palms continuing
to grow, a music

reverberating like leaves
falling or rain, an utterance
like a million monarchs
released for the migration
or an open book imploding.

Janine Certo is author of two full-length collections of poetry: Elixir, winner of both the 2020 New American Poetry Prize and the 2020 Lauria/Frasca Poetry Prize (2021, co-published by New American Press and Bordighera Press) and In the Corner of the Living (Main Street Rag, 2017). She was awarded second prize in Nimrod’s 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for poetry judged by Kaveh Akbar. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, Vallum, Greensboro Review, and others. Certo is an associate professor at Michigan State University.

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