Triptych: an Elegy
author's note: Shortly after the death of my dear friend I found myself unable to describe the depth of this loss, unable to write much of anything. As I struggled to write an elegy, I knew that the best way for me to honour him was to imagine his stories as told through a mural. As a cultural journalist and artist-scholar, he lived a life full of stories that could be told through ekphrastic works. “Triptych” gave me a framework for circling into the poem.
When all of us wrote love poems you wrote about a city of angels, the view from a loft, a new city in the Mojave with its own angel dressed in blue.
You took every chance to bend the rules until you created small poems embedded in city maps or shaped like newspaper stories, or images with names that were poems unto themselves. Always the journalist and photographer. Always, why can’t it be done?
Even so, once we talked about what would happen if you wrote yourself into your work. I don’t know if you even could, but your poet-heart returned to Riverside whenever we talked. Someday when you were less busy, you said, you would write the story of a first kiss in the orange groves.
I will write your poem for you. No, I will make a mural - a triptych - and we will paint it in this desert that you loved.
The first panel: It will start outside your home as someone in the neighbourhood is fixing their car and your favourite music is playing. Your mother is cooking, your father is near. You are drawing in the living room, and everything is still a beginning.
The second panel: You find yourself in a grove of oranges under the stars. There is starlight on white blossoms so fragrant you are taken aback by the knowledge of leaving soon.
In the distance you see a skyline lit by the same stars, and there is more beauty than you can ever capture with your camera or pen. It’s then that you remember the grove.
The third panel: When the blossoms take hold the mural ends with you among rows of oranges everywhere, spilling to the ground. Such sweet abundance that the fruit on the boughs are too heavy for the trees to keep it all to themselves.
Angela M. Brommel
editor's note: The photograph shown was selected by the editor to illustrate the poem, which features an imagined artwork.
Angela M. Brommel, is a Nevada writer with Iowa roots. She is the author of the Plutonium & Platinum Blonde (Serving House Books, 2018), and her poetry has been featured in The Best American Poetry Blog, the North American Review, The Literary Review-TLR Share, and Sweet: A Literary Confection, among many other journals, anthologies, and art exhibitions. Her full-length poetry collection, Mojave in July, is forthcoming from Tolsun Books. She is the Executive Director of the Office of Arts & Culture, as well as part-time faculty in Humanities, at Nevada State College. You can also find her at The Citron Review as Editor-in-Chief.
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