Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog / Edition 1

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Read an Excerpt

Love Alone

Eighteen Elegies for Rog

By Paul Monette


Copyright © 1988 Paul Monette
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-7378-2



    everything extraneous has burned away
    this is how burning feels in the fall
    of the final year not like leaves in a blue
    October but as if the skin were a paper lantern
    full of trapped moths beating their fired wings
    and yet I can lie on this hill just above you
    a foot beside where I will lie myself
    soon soon and for all the wrack and blubber
    feel still how we were warriors when the
    merest morning sun in the garden was a
    kingdom after Room 1010 war is not all
    death it turns out war is what little
    thing you hold on to refugeed and far from home
    oh sweetie will you please forgive me this
    that every time I opened a box of anything
    Glad Bags One-A-Days KING SIZE was
    the worst I'd think will you still be here
    when the box is empty Rog Rog who will
    play boy with me now that I bucket with tears
    through it all when I'd cling beside you sobbing
    you'd shrug it off with the quietest I'm still
I have your watch in the top drawer
    which I don't dare wear yet help me please
    the boxes grocery home day after day
    the junk that keeps men spotless but it doesn't
    matter now how long they last or I
    the day has taken you with it and all
    there is now is burning dark the only green
    is up by the grave and this little thing
    of telling the hill I'm here oh I'm here

    No Goodbyes

    for hours at the end I kissed your temple stroked
    your hair and sniffed it it smelled so clean we'd
    washed it Saturday night when the fever broke
    as if there was always the perfect thing to do
    to be alive for years I'd breathe your hair
    when I came to bed late it was such pure you
    why I nuzzle your brush every morning because
    you're in there just like the dog the night
    we unpacked the hospital bag and he skipped
    and whimpered when Dad put on the red
    sweater Cover my bald spot will you
    you'd say and tilt your head like a parrot
    so I could fix you up always always
    till this one night when I was reduced to
    I love you little friend here I am my
    sweetest pea
over and over spending all our
    endearments like stray coins at a border
    but wouldn't cry then no choked it
    because they all said hearing was the last to go
    the ear is like a wolf's till the very end
    straining to hear a whole forest and I
    wanted you loping off whatever you could
    still dream to the sound of me at 3 P.M.
    you were stable still our favorite word
    at 4 you took the turn WAIT WAIT I AM
    THE SENTRY HERE nothing passes as long as
    I'm where I am we go on death is
    a lonely hole two can leap it or else
    or else there is nothing this man is mine
    he's an ancient Greek like me I do
    all the negotiating while he does battle
    we are war and peace in a single bed
    we wear the same size shirt it can't it can't
    be yet not this just let me brush his hair
    it's only Tuesday there's chicken in the fridge
    from Sunday night he ate he slept oh why
    don't all these kisses rouse you I won't won't
    say it all I will say is goodnight patting
    a few last strands in place you're covered now
    my darling one last graze in the meadow
    of you and please let your final dream be
    a man not quite your size losing the whole
    world but still here combing combing
    singing your secret names till the night's gone

    Your Sightless Days

    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay

    I remember clearly deciding not to see
    anymore myself this out of sheer protest
    or only see what I could tell you the whole of
    art was out so was anything new the buff
    hillside gone to grass was just our speed
    but of course I was always minimizing
    as if to say there's nothing to see today
    it's the same old thing Rog sycamore's bare
    park full of Seurats but hey feel that breeze
    and knowing how clear Aegean blue your eyes were
    please I know what I watched go out but even
    when it struck us down blacked our windows
    like an air raid even then your glimmering half
    sight was so seductive What do you see
    I'd ask you coaxing every street sign like
    they were glyphs off a ruined temple night
    would fall you'd frown Are the lights on Paul
    and tear my heart all the Bette Davis lines
    out to get us but oh my dearest every one
    was on spots flashes searches long white tubes
    like the swords in Star Wars candlepower fit
    for a Byzantine saint and still so dim the dark
    so jealous of life and then out of nowhere
    a neon day of LA sun we're out strolling
    you stop peer impish intent as a hawk
    and say I see you just like that and THEN
    I toss my blinders and drink the world like water
    till the next dark up and down for half a year
    the left one gone in April overnight
    two millimeters on the right side saved
    and we fought for those that knife of light
    and beaten ground raging for day like the
    Warsaw ghetto all summer long I dripped
    your veins at 4 and midnight watching every
    drop as if it was sight itself so did we
    win did we lose you died with the barest
    shadows oh I know but even then we hoped
    a cataract laser might give us a glint
    would not see night as the way of the world
    and what have I seen since your blindness my
    love just that my love requires no eyes so
    why am I tapping this thin white cane of outrage
    through crowds of sighted fools the pointless trees
    and the awful dusk unlifting some few colors
    bright as razor blades trying to make me look
    I'm shut tight Oedipus-old leave me alone
    I have somehow gotten it all wrong because
    when you were the blackest blind you laughed laughed
    groped your way and stared the noon sun down
    How are you jerks would ask Read Job you'd say
    a gleam in every good hour pulling out puns
    and Benny jokes and fighting to read the charts
    knowing the worst had fallen you'd hoot on the phone
    and wrestle the dog so the summer was still
    the summer Rog see how you saw us through


    pain is not a flower pain is a root
    and its work is underground where the moldering
    proceeds the bones of all our joy winded
    and rained and nothing grows a whole life's love
    that longed to be an orchard forced to lie
    like an onion secret sour in the mine of pain
    the ore veined out there's just these tunnels shot
    with roots but then we were never gardeners
    were we planters waterers cleanup crew
    more yard boys three bucks an hour than rose queens
    still the place was the vale of Arcady to us
    and after all a man can plant a stone here
    and it'll sprout but gardenias now those vellum
    Billie Holiday prom flowers what a shock
    to learn they grew on trees well bushes then
    we urned one in the shade of the Chinese elm
    watered and watered the white blooms wafting May
    to mid-August now and then you'd bring one in
    floating in a bowl and leave it on my desk
    by such small tokens did the world grow green
    and the Billie Holiday song is this I'm jealous
    of all the time I didn't know you yet
    and the month since so full of risible scalding
    blankness I crave it more that secondhand past
    oh you can keep the lovers the far countries
    but you young you twenty you in Paris
    with a poem in your boot if I could have that
    really be there then beside you or waving
    across Boulevard Saint-Germain I'd face these
    dead days longer the cave of all that's left
    enough now as to gardenias look this is
    such a cliché but one happened to break
    in October by then I was bringing them in
    leaving them at your bedside between the Kleenex
    and the talking clock Smell it good now Rog
    it's the last one
fourth day yellow and smutty
    yet I gave you one last whiff right under
    your nose while you talked to Jaimee then
    you died a week later and that next day
    I was out in the garden to die of the pain
    but wait what is this Thomas Hardy a furled
    gardenia just coming out which I bowled by
    the bed I sleep now just where you slept curled
    in the selfsame spot and that one lasted through
    the funeral next week a third billowed out
    what is this Twilight Zone which I laid on
    the grave as if I was your date for the prom
    which I would've been if we'd ever been 18
    but for all the spunk of the three gardenias
    still the pain is not a flower and digs like
    a spade in stony soil no earthly reason
    not a thing will come of it but a slag heap
    and a pit and the deepest root the stuff of witch
    banes winds and winds its tendril about my heart
    I promise you all the last gardenias Rog
    but they can't go on like this they've stopped they know
    the only garden we'll ever be is us and it's
    all winter they tried they tried but oh the ice
    of my empty arms my poor potato dreams

    The Worrying

    ate me alive day and night these land mines
    all over like the toy bombs dropped on the
    Afghans little Bozo jack-in-the-boxes
    that blow your hands off 3 A.M. I'd go
    around the house with a rag of ammonia
    wiping wiping crazed as a housewife on Let's
    Make a Deal
the deal being PLEASE DON'T MAKE
    HIM SICK AGAIN faucets doorknobs the phone
    every lethal thing a person grips and leaves
    his prints on scrubbed my hands till my fingers
    cracked washed apples ten times ten no salad
    but iceberg and shuck the outer two thirds someone
    we knew was brain dead from sushi so stick
    to meatloaf creamed corn spuds whatever we
    could cook to death DO NOT USE THE D WORD
    EVEN IN JEST when you started craving deli
    I heaved a sigh because salami was so de-
    germed with its lovely nitrites to hell with
    cholesterol that's for people way way over
    the hill or up the hill not us in the vale
    of borrowed time yet I was so far more gone
    than you nuts in fact ruinous as a supermom
    with a kid in a bubble who can't play and ten
    years later can't work can't kiss can't laugh
    but his room's still clean every cough every
    bump would nothing ever be nothing again
    cramming you with zinc and Häagen-Dazs so wild
    to fatten you up I couldn't keep track of
    what was medicine what old wives' but see
    THERE WAS NO MEDICINE only me and to
    circle the wagons and island the last of our
    magic spoon by spoon nap by nap till we
    healed you as April heals drinking the sun
    I was Prospero of the spell of day-by-day
    and all of this just the house worry peanuts
    to what's out there and you with the dagger at
    your jugular struggling back to work jotting
    your calendar two months ahead penciling
    clients husbanding husbanding inching back
    and me agape with the day's demises who
    was swollen who gone mad ringing you on
    the hour how are you compared to ten noon
    one come home and have blintzes petrified
    you'd step in an elevator with some hacking
    CPA the whole world ought to be masked
    please I can't even speak of the hospital fear
    fists bone white the first day of an assault
    huddled by your bed like an old crone empty-
    eyed in a Greek square black on black the waiting
    for tests the chamber of horrors in my head
    my rags and vitamins dumb as leeches how did
    the meningitis get in where did I slip up
    what didn't I scour I'd have swathed the city
    in gauze to cushion you no man who hasn't
    watched his cruelest worry come true in a room
    with no door can ever know what doesn't
    die because they lie who say it's over
    Rog it hasn't stopped at all are you okay
    does it hurt what can I do still still I
    think if I worry enough I'll keep you near
    the night before Thanksgiving I had this
    panic to buy the plot on either side of us
    so we won't be cramped that yard of extra grass
    would let us breathe THIS IS CRAZY RIGHT but
    Thanksgiving morning I went the grave two over
    beside you was six feet deep ready for the next
    murdered dream so see the threat was real
    why not worry worry is like prayer is like
    God if you have none they all forget there's
    the other side too twelve years and not once
    to fret WHO WILL EVER LOVE ME that was
    the heaven at the back of time but we had it
    here now black on black I wander frantic
    never done with worrying but it's mine it's
    a cure that's not in the books are you easy
    my stolen pal what do you need is it
    sleep like sleep you want a pillow a cool
    drink oh my one safe place there must be
    something just say what it is and it's yours


    Go now
    I think you are ready

    pre-need they call it at Forest Lawn pre-dead
    is what they mean but they aren't all poodled
    like Liberace a bit overripe but truly
    convinced they're the launching pad hands slick
    with Jergen's beaming all-God's-children
    my pre-need meeting's next Wednesday with Bill
    who hopes on the phone you're in a better world
    and wants the gay market we'll go with the Old
    North Church not that one they have their own
    coffin polished steel closed no viewing no
    embalming want to rot with my blood inside
    means I can't be dressed but naked is quite
    proper I'm not going out for dinner bare
    is how I sleep nudist I wander the house
    lap the pool check what's left in the mirror
    3 concrete linings to pick from CA law
    no sinking allowed 2 are tight as nuclear
    shelters watersealed the third slatted on top
    so the earth fills in yes yes more earth and
    junk steel for the casket one wants to get back
    to the soil quick for that is where we meet
    no flowers well a spray of gardenias perhaps
    but the floral part rankles especially after
    I hated the flower garbage on your grave
    besides we're out of the hothouse biz
    earth wind water is all we are now I learned
    this lingo for you Rog time-of-need alas
    stripped Episcopal will do for the post-mortem
    very stripped a little ashes-to-ashes no
    I AM THE LIFE He's not no hymns no organ
    just poems will's all signed with Dickensian
    cut-outs medical power of attorney in case
    of dementia every day I think of a new
    way to get ready I'm ready as a fucking
    fire department toss in please a pebble
    from Delphi and a hunk of Brighton Rock
    just like my friend plot's all paid for deed
    the whole bit not a piece of real estate
    expected to boom or condo-ize new address
    Revelation thirty-two-seventy-five Space 1
    2's you with 4 bristling evergreens at the
    compass points to guard us therefore 1 P.M.
    for the ceremony so the shadows dapple like
    they did for you with the Valley bathed in light
    epitaph name no middle initial date then
    not Yeats exactly but there won't be horsemen
    passing only if we're lucky some far-off
    men of our sort generations hence a pair
    of dreamy types strolling among the hill graves
    for curiosity's sake this well may be
    in a time when dying is not all day and every
    house riven and they'll laugh Here's 2 like us
    won't that be lovely Rog make the grass shiver
    like the dog's coat oh yes the dog goes to
    my brother hoping the leash law's unenforced
    pills I still have to get pills for the ten
    contingencies of lingering hemlock
    would be choice for Platonic reasons but
    a cocked .32 will do in a pinch does this all
    sound like I'm checking out oh darling no
    I'm not half ready to leave us here without
    us all told but the sickness is near sometimes
    as the wall of this room things have to be done
    I used my optimism up keeping you alive
    all but this no matter what else we lie
    together believing less than nothing now
    I haven't the ghost of a lease on a better
    world though I cry out your name and beg for
    signs I am only prepared for wind and water
    I put my house in order inch by inch
    if it comes when it comes I'll be on the
    diving board toes over the edge my gleaming
    broken body all the details done with
    one last dazzled thought of you in the sun
    be wind and rain with me ready for deepest
    darkness no matter how nothing not alone


Excerpted from Love Alone by Paul Monette. Copyright © 1988 Paul Monette. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Publisher's Note,
No Goodbyes,
Your Sightless Days,
The Worrying,
Half Life,
Black Xmas,
The Very Same,
New Year's at Lawrence's Grave,
Three Rings,
Current Status 1/22/87,
The Losing Side,
The House on Kings Road,
Last Day at Molera Beach,
Dreaming of You,
Brother of the Mount of Olives,
A Biography of Paul Monette,

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