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First Elegy

The night my grief passed through me
most completely,

I was making dinner.
I had lit the grill and reached as ever
to give a quick metallic scrub

and then I realized
you were ash.

It was the day
however many days
after your death they'd said
cremation would take place,
which hadn't struck me
until the puff
of these ashes in their shining chamber

flung at me the knowledge
of your body gone, incinerated, no mistake,
no hopeó

                me a zero stuffed with breath.

A swarm of tears, and cries like

none that I had ever made
hauled through me, hauled
my 'soul' my presence
of mind my poise my
into a place of menace, the place
where losing you meant losing everything
about the way I see, make sense.
So I learned what the words mean
in accounts we always blandly read
of ululation, dull eviscerating words, wracked.

My husband now my oldest man observed in awe
and the way he knows me also changed.

He was a cleat and I was the boat, roped but
thrashing the ropeó

You left me, who made the world seem safe,
who aren't even a bone anymore. Your mottled
mica skin that tore itself in those last days,
how quickly it must have crinkled up and gone.

Sally Ball

American Poetry Review

November/December 2016

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