“Elegy for Charles Porter” by Lizabeth Yandel

Lizabeth Yandel


A concrete church with no steeple
held his service. A single candle lit.
A small crowd shifted on metal
folding chairs. They sighed a final
sigh. The pastor
It was April when Charlie died,
at forty-six. Police said he fell, from a bridge
onto hard ground, intoxicated, as always.
He used to call out
across the street as I walked to work.
He’d wave wildly, hobble over,
tell me the latest: Just out of jail, lost
his teeth again, his sister sent a letter and
could I read it to him?

Exposed, tobacco-stained gums smacked
as he spoke, always over a grin.
You see,
Charlie had always been drinking. His mother’s
womb, a slick curlicue of boy, drowning.
She had a taste for whiskey, he’d shrugged,
and him too.

I wonder now about that day,
if he’d had his teeth in. If he’d paced
back and forth, talking to himself like he did.
If he’d slept under that bridge. It must’ve been quiet,
save the bitter hiss of wind. And I wonder, of course,
if he jumped.
But who could know the desires of a man
so undesired by the world? What prayers
he might whisper to the night
from a jail-cell cot,
a park bench,
an underpass.
The pastor read Scripture, passages about Man.
Be he wealthy or poor, he be a brother,
a son of God.
The crowded room nodded along, all
facing the one candle, as if rowing
a great boat through fog,
bowing and rising.

from Rattle #59, Spring 2018


Lizabeth Yandel: “Language is the melody we sing into the soundscape of the universe, to bounce off the dark planets as they roll, the stars as they spin, fall, and burn, and it returns to us, a circular pulsing rhythm, to assure us we exist. Perhaps these writings are an attempt at arranging chaos amid a frantically progressing technology and a godless, displaced, and distracted generation.” (web)

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