Joyce Ann Underwood
Elegy for Jon Smith
I stood in your room.
Your books still lined the walls—
Your paintings hung in the hall.
I heard Dylan sing,
A hard rain’s a gonna fall…
Your room smelled of incense
And the tobacco you rolled
On that little silver tray. At the end,
I was outside, with love aglow—
Always feeling in the way.
Anger looked out upon
The scene—your room a
small town Babylon.
Hollywood could never compare
To the despair that filled your room.
Years ago Burroughs
Whispered from the shelf:
One more hit won’t hurt at all…
But it was one more hit
That made you fall.
The books that still line your walls;
Your paintings hanging in the hall—
All that’s left of the you I longed to know;
the only ones who saw it all;
From last hit to last call.
They saw your first bottle of AZT.
They watched Reagan lie on TV.
The looked on as Cobain sang his last
While you read the cards with impunity.
They watched over you and me.
Paint under your fingernails
We’d talk for hours in your private cell
Full of books and art,
And books on art. And hell.
If not for that final knell—
We’d be chatting about Burroughs, Anger, cards, and Cobain.
About you children: Angelica, Aaron, Johanna, and Lorraine.
About art and music, literature, and the pain.
Listening to Dylan sing about the rain.
Half an Hour
For half an hour I was positive.
The kit my lover sent me
Sat on my cluttered bathroom counter
I sat, broken and heaving on the floor
As panic turned to despair
On the phone to my brother
I’m so sorry”
There is nothing else to say –
“I knew better
I loved recklessly
Despite your warning words.”
My brother’s voice, calm in my ear,
“Read the papers again
To be sure.” To be sure—
For half an hour I was positive
My brother’s half an hour has yet to end.
Joyce Ann Underwood blogs at First Person Narrative and Write Like a Rock Star. Her work has appeared in Kairos and Offbeat Home. Joyce is a writer, mother, wife, voyeur, and friend. She loves Duran Duran, hates cleaning, and really needs to learn to let things go. Growing up in Crescent City, Florida, Joyce spent many afternoons listening to the old-timers tell the life stories of about just about everyone they had ever known. From this upbringing sprung a love for oral storytelling that would grow into a passion during her years studying Medieval Oral Poetry at the University of West Florida.
These poems are not previously published.