ON THE DAY OF TRANSLATION WORKSHOP
Oscar is gone. He is gone. Lost to speed
on a highway we never saw him dare
in daylight. I repeat: He will never come home.
I see him as a kitten, fitting inside my palm,
a comma, growing into his question-mark tail.
He lapped the lips of bottled beers. I can’t write
those nights spent buried in the ease of his fur.
My husband shovels him from the road, exhausts an hour
deciding the best truth to tell: he was mangled beyond
recognition, or he slipped into the horse field
and never returned. I get the facts because he knows
nothing’s worse than a closed casket, a bodiless funeral.
How do we quantify loss? The Russian interpreter
translates the word “elegy” wrong. First, eulogy, then sorry,
further abridging our inadequate language of grief.
—from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Alicia Casey: “I write because a wonderful teacher once slapped an eraser to the chalkboard next to the symbol for ‘does not equal’ and the word ‘eraser.’ He said, ‘The word will never be the object, but, if you want to be a poet, it’s your job to try your damnedest to make it so.’ I keep trying.”