Jesse Graves: "Elegy"




I know that my brother and I stood

beside the rail tracks in an open lot,

him telling stories of our grandfather,

yet memory fails to ignite the image

I want from that day, which is to see

his face working as he circled his way

through how the old man played tricks

on our grandmother, her stern face

breaking into laughter as I never saw.

I know that we had plates of spaghetti

for lunch at Louie’s Italian Restaurant,

and JFG coffee at the short-lived café

beside their downtown roasting house.

Overhead, the paraffin sweep of sky,

clouds melted by the sun they tried

to conceal, ground birds scrap-hunting

all around us, the day getting so quickly

away, faster even than my brother’s face,

which I have not seen for five long years,

and will not see in any years ahead.


Jesse Graves' first poetry collection, Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine, was published by Texas Review Press in 2011, and won the 2012 Weatherford Award in Poetry from Berea College, and the Book of the Year Award in Poetry from the Appalachian Writers’ Association. A second book of poems, Basin Ghosts, was released in 2014. Other recent work appears in various journals, including Prairie Schooner, Georgia Review, and Missouri Review Online