Poetry

Élégie pour un voyageur – Poem

Élégie pour un voyageur

~for Alec Hodgins

 

If I could choose one person who loved life,

who taught me to live, it would be you.

I can’t dégager le sens de quelquechose

I can’t work it out. I wish I could have

Je voudrais pouvoir vous ai dit

I looked out at all the adults around me

lost in the mirages of who they thought they were

and then I heard you say,

ne prendre rien allant de soi

Take nothing for granted

and I looked up.

 

At sixteen, my eyes still 20/20

saw beyond the present–

a glass ball future where handrails

were meant for sliding down, not holding.

 

I flirted with the idea that I could grow up to be

somewhere else, someone else, someone like you.

I probably flirted with you. Everything once

clumsy and too intense about me made sense

in Francais 400. You gave us words to make flashcards,

tenses to run, accents to place, and you gave us poems.

I learned se démarquer de– to stand out,

to stop pretending to blend.

 

I imbibed my best art form, la pédagogie.

But I didn’t know that yet. I was going to be a poet,

an artist, a vagabond, to blow the suburbs

like a line of coke or a torch. I thought, I too

will sell arms in Africa, pierce the skin of my lover’s

hand in the fury of his wrongdoing. I will

drink absinthe and wake up on trains

in the caesura of a poem I’ve yet to write. I will

keep company with oarsmen in Taipei and whores

in Haiti, I will climb the Eifel Tower, any fucking

tower you offer me. Goddamnitt. I will

love the world by walking it entire, I will

be loved in fire and beauty. You

loved us in fire and beauty. Because once

you slow the words

long enough to translate,

you can see the heart of anyone

perfect and raw. Je vous ai entendu

M. Alec et je t’aime.

 

Vous nous avez appris comment vivre

You taught us how to live.

But fuck Baudelaire, fuck

the Champs Elysees, fuck the train tracks

where they found you. That is not how to die.

Before Dead Poets, before Freedom Writers, before,

in my wildest dreams, me – one man taught us to dream

to be present exactly where we were, and life was

nothing but an unstamped passport.

 

I never wanted to teach. What could

I possibly know that mattered? What could

I give that wasn’t free for the taking?

But in a room full of young people

curious and passionate, I felt I could maybe

be like you. We live through poets in

pages of their books. And then we put them

away. The art of teaching

lasts longer, and digs deeper. Its how the poems

live after the poets die. We recited those poems

over and over. In that small plastic chair

with a left hand armrest desk, I felt,

for the first time, free. I will keep you

beyond the pages of any poem.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,

Luxe, calme et volupté.

 

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One thought on “Élégie pour un voyageur – Poem

  1. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
    It’s been a bit of time and I’m still trying to come to terms with this – still unable to articulate the impact on me, personally, and I haven’t figured out why it’s been so significant and so paralyzingly. So, thank you, for reasons I can’t explain.

    A side note, I don’t know if you remember me, but I remember your beautiful spirit and hope life has treated you well. You were well loved ❤️.

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