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Elegies

BY NAM LE

I.M. Ché Frye

Kubla Ché, dreaming of ancient

Egypt, ate his hyacinths and was

marvelous. Wherever you are is

what I’m meant to say. Before you

beauty come, Dis crouching among

the black basalt, kneading master’s

soured linen, watching (bewatched)

the great beaten gold litter borne by,


deltoids sun-dewed stone, temples

bronze & strong & in train in

thrall perpetual — 

I am of a mind,

daddy. Like, inside the blind-white

cloth-of-gold, the scented, sweating

box she sat in (think box, lock box) — 

Phoenician forest, seeder of  known

world’s every known green: malachite,

sea-green jasper, chrysocolla, olivine — 

& outside, too, other-handed, other-

landed, in rainless, treeless Thebes, my

dark knees tendered by two lands, rubbed


bare by work & love — 

Move the tombs to the cliffs of

Beni Hasan. Send salt from the four

lakes. She is Nefertiti, she shares

the crown, she brings the single sun.

You do not watch the sun. But in

the Deeds of  Suppiluliuma she

says she is fearful but there is no

fear past true heresy, her beauty is

clear of the next line & the next and

that kind of  beauty is if not

redemption the possibility of a

separate resurrection.
  (Am I not beautiful too?)

The miners are instructed: Find a

vein, gouge it to the very end.

ii

Princeling Ché, wolfling Ché, fish-

eyed prodigy, anabole, brother

mine, all-beautiful boy, who’ll turn

your pages now? The lines unfurled

before you in your sleep, who sets

them to song? I cannot. (All men

have crowns and every crown can be


broken.)

Were your senses mixed (blood

shaking your heart — orange, with

violet veins) or did hearing alone

stay and go last, were your nostrils,

at last, unblocked, your ears, at last,

symmetrized, did you unravel

first silence did you dream?

Maimonides says of Abraham

it is not God he disobeys but

Elohim; that in the bureaucracy

of divine instruction the envoy

fore the eyes supersedes the voice


in the ear did they close your

eyes, daddy? they must have

closed your eyes (enucleate the

globe, ligate the four recti, fix in

formalin) for under the sole edict

of sound

the son is killed.

iii

Of  your father we dare & do

not speak.
iv

Wherever you are, you are not

your death. You are not your cold

body, your subclavian blood, your

spine upon the body block that

proffers up your organs, your

humors pooled with gravity — you

are abed in natron, my friend, you are

forty days not in a metal slot but

roused into the mirror world, the

eastern fields of light, the father

sun rayed gentle on the rushes &


not the prosector but the jackal

keeps your stomach & the falcon

your intestines and your heart

remains your heart is yours for you

there are no more tests of   heart.

My friend, magnificent, across your

empty desk they go on trading base

metals & precious gems. They found

flint in feldspar caves, below the first

cataract, where single stones, actioned


by wind, can mother a dune. They trade

tin south to children of  the stars, mix

alum with deep-red alizarin to

dye, to delight them who are yet to

learn the violence of  such charm

heart hanging in its bloodslick

chamber heart gleaming in its

rubied darkness

My husband, my god,

my gold-mad son

lorn

issue, dim & darling eyes flooding

with natal sand, every night flooding


my free past. What’s a queen know

of this my babies in their sunless

cease what’s a queen’s knees know

but milk & crystalled honey her

throat but subtle Mareotic wine sun

smelted to gold, disced & sledding

behind her

the whole world’s whole life

given her to give — 

vi

Look, the dreamer comes!


Was this what you sleep-

conceived, this equal dialogue this

black silt talk rife in death & germ

all-mixing, estuarizing, high-banked

along the flood’s go-down? (it

lowers down its voices, the flood it

helps me to think, blessed ram, of

death as flood for in it all

things high & low, fair & dun, flax

& inlaid faience, free & liened &

husbanded are leveled, meet, and

proven in the engorged the

enchafèd delta.)
I see it now. (The trick of death

is that it keeps returning.) Lady of

all women, they call me, they are

all my children now. (Labors of

my dim life.) I will prepare each

part for them. (From the front, no

back from behind, no face am

I purged at last of the various

envies?)

I will build a city for you.

  (I will build a city for you.)

vii
Twenty years ago we were nineteen

and already elegiac, we were

future tensed & annealed, we were

quenched in the dark peace of

violent histories — Karnak, Babylon,

Persepolis, Byzantium — the names

alone (quarry our bones, convey

us to Karnak) our names we

preserved, bent to stave & strophe,

accomplishing our envy, gathering

our violence, we were altogether

desire, (only ever) all we would


be full of  imminence (light

first, sun later) stayed, asituate,

unforgiving.

viii

Now you are time’s but I say to you,

Ché, in full mouth: We will be perfect.

There will be a recognition. The skill

has left your fingers, the dream your

brainpan but time, too, is prospected by

work (the lumen of the vein) (the

schist afire through the rock) and humans,


too, may burn like candles, their spines

wicks, their feverdreams the sputting

flames — 

Work in the shadows. We will work

in the shadows, the rest being the

madness. Naughty naughty boy. Ward

residuum. Hold to murmur, hold

to method. You see? Time breaks along

its faults, lays bare its jeweled fragments

for those who love and work. It gives

it all for free. It asks only reversion

at the end. (And like, that end whereof

we could not think thereof  (no


questions asked) you spake & said, My

father and you answered, Here am I,

my son) O tell me — go, you go

first (you went first) — what reason

makes this right, what insupposable

value, what excuse but ultimacy which

all know to be the breath of evil?

I will build a city for you.

ix

About beauty they really got it, those


masters: great wonders call for great

suffering. The father straps down

his son, carves along the throat’s chalked

crease (signaling purpose), the slavers

slough off infants into sand holes

(streamlining, focusing the workforce),

the queen conceives eternal city, she

deracinates a people to upraise it

with their bowed backs, mortar it with

their warm, oxygenated blood sunk

generations & contingency &

opportunity cost gambling our

own lives’ great gamble: that wrong,


actioned by time, can be made

soluble in art.

So,

Volchénochëk, you may be absolved — 

I tried & trying.

Listen, I want to say something to you.

You arrived just in time. You told me

they’re not better than us, you honored

our sin, repaired my will, you were

havoc in the trees, the dense infolding


fire & its fuel at once (white fusion,

wild usufruct) always your mind

was the Emergency, always severaled,

chording the upper & lower, equal

& bonded in appetency, bonded

always to mine.

This is a moment of children.

Who cares who sees? (Who sees?) We

scoff at faultless entropy, we strip the

pith from the inner stalk, we count to

three. Talk me into it, daddy (the

first rolls were blank) oxidize

this carbon black significance — heart


of water — this red hematite & blue

frit, these yellow ochres that every

child knows enflesh the unreal

sun — 

xi

Put it another way: the ink gleams

for three more words before it (and

meaning) sets. In those three beats I

must be thousand-faced, entelechied,

liable, I must be totally told on — 

in the middle of my life


a myth, a tidal mouth, I am planted

in bitter celery, in the phytolithic

matrix all-possible clay I sense

your slow impulsion all around me.

Heart’s lake, calendula on my

fingers, laughter in the morning-

golded reeds (shaking the papyrus),

the scale in the wind that shakes

the reeds, deus absconditus, the only

gossip of the living, I miss you

so much.

xii
Either we are eternal, with neither

end nor beginning, or we are

sprung from a single thing and

proliferative — in either case death

is not death (though time cannot but

give form to suffering). Believe

(if you must) as I must:

In all things moment.

In each thing everything.

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