Poetic Form: Elegy
The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical form and is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group. Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, ode, and eulogy: the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose.
The elements of a traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration of the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace.
It is more than twenty- five years gone,
that tight-lipped innocence,
held close out of parental expectation.
My sweet-sixteen fingers
wrapped around its neck,
willing it to stay put.
But he called to it.
Like an experienced hunter letting
the younger bucks pass,
he held onto a hope
more important than bragging rights.
At night, in a trailer park far
from my mother’s polished kitchen,
he closed his bedroom door
and told me I was his first.
He cupped my face and leaned me back
onto a bare mattress on the floor.
Slowly, steadily, he pushed himself into me.
Thankful for the cover of darkness,
I screwed up my face in pain,
bit my lip and faked pleasure,
hummed and moaned and sighed
and convinced myself I would learn to like it.
Afterward, he walked me, naked,
into the bathroom, drew a bath,
wrapped himself around me in the water.
I could hear his parents
watching television in the other room,
and I couldn’t take my eyes off the
cracked vinyl floor.
He laughed and called me “lucky 7.”
Confused, I asked him why,
taking in his sideways answer.
So much for honesty.
So much for all that was lost.
And yet, his boyish sweetness
was not wasted on me.
Somehow, I looked past the lie,
the sound of his father’s wheezy laughter,
and his mother’s complaining whine.
I romanticized the dingy tile and rusty drain.
In the flickering light, I found myself,
not a woman, per se, but changed.
The small yet immense act of opening my legs
to a boy who lied needlessly,
and indeed loved me,
stepped me gently but realistically,
into the world of lust.
I knew then, lying in that water,
propped against his chest and
squeezed between his knees,
why women offer themselves up
and why men swallow their pride.
There is nothing on this planet
quite so tantalizing as sex.
Nothing quite so addictive or
destructive or uplifting or
I wondered, that night, alone
between my own crisp white sheets,
why we put so much importance on
protecting our virginity.
I was already a better version of myself,
more aware, softer, real.
Lessons like this linger,
become part of a mythology
we carry with us throughout life.
Our sexual past marks us,
filters through our dreams and
comes out the other side
in a fog of fantasy.
We look back on it,
through the ether of time,
the way we need to.