- Elegy for the Bully, and: Territory
Elegy for the Bully
You have always been nosebleed and nail-bite, the spit-shined hallswhere you harvested us with your tribal clang. Too long we saw your facein every shadow, felt the whole forest await your arrival like a nagging frost.We hid from you in toilet stalls, quit band to avoid the musicroom where you waited near your locker. Back then, there was nothingwe could say. In death we greet you now as brothers, your darksilence wailing from those glittering trumpets we never learned to play. [End Page 148]
All day I’ve followed roads. Have I come that far?Terre Haute, Greencastle. Kokomo’s not close, but not far.
My father once took me to Muncie.We drove all the back roads, but not far.
He showed me the old sow in the cattle chute,the hot electric prod. Burning fur rose, but not far.
Why was Route 9 so full of holes? Why towns with nameslike Solitude, Economy? He headed toward Paradise, but it was far.
Sometimes he pointed out Holsteins and Guernseys.Wandering the fenced fields, they couldn’t get far.
Once, he found a cow’s placenta in the grass,a shiny red flag. The new calf consoled: not far, not far.
Each Sabbath he drove back from church.Heaven rang in his ears: so close, yet so far.
At night, in his room, he read The Book:And on the last day, I will raise him up—and far.
After rain: Worms rose like black veins. In the yard,he worked his Ford. The church bells rang from afar.
For years, he sold auto and life. His territory:Auburn to Fort Wayne. He always drove fast, but not far.
He gave me, at birth, his name—Bruce—so I could follow him.But where do you follow the dead? And how far? [End Page 149]
Bruce Snider is the author of the poetry collections Paradise, Indiana (Pleiades/LSU, 2012) and The Year We Studied Women (Wisconsin, 2003). His poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, the Threepenny Review, and The Best American Poetry. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford, he’s an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco.