“Elegy” by Mark Wagenaar

Mark Wagenaar


Though this place, Chinsekikan, housed
1700 rocks that resembled human faces,
we mostly went there for the people—
today, an Elvis impersonator shaking his hips
for Rock Elvis, a woman asking Rock Nemo
if her father would bother to come after her,
the kid expecting Rock E.T. to answer his
who can I call now? Today I finally asked
Rock Buddha if it was just me, or did he too
think the language of accumulation hollows
us out some, & his beatific face & perfect
silence answered me. We walked out
behind a woman praying to a miniature version
of Rock Jesus, for the health of her collie,
& on this street of museums in this city
of tombs, we swerved to avoid the crowd
of Deadheads come to pay respects
to Rock Jerry Garcia, & found ourselves
in the Museum of What Should Be Remembered
This Week—& I, like everyone else, looked
for our names, our children’s, God, just
one thing I did this week, but found
nothing, & I confess the exhibits blurred
a little as I passed them, looking for one
in particular—& when I didn’t find it,
I took a marker & wrote on a window—
David Olney died on stage this week.
Said I’m sorry, closed his eyes, chin to his chest.
Even held on to his guitar. Who doesn’t long
to go as gently. And who can begin to count
the distances & dusky roads his songs opened
in us? The lack, the heartbreak that hallows us.
I turned after I left & saw the place
was little more than a glorified barge—already
workers were untying the ropes to unmoor it
as the week began to turn. And where is it
sailing. At the mercy of memory. Like all of us.
Jerusalem, tomorrow. The river of heaven the next.

from Poets Respond
January 26, 2020


Mark Wagenaar: “This week David Olney died onstage, while playing a set–didn’t even fall off his stool. His friends called him a gentle soul, and it probably takes a gentle person to go like that. Seemed worth remembering.” (web)

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