More than an Elegy

New life in the ruins.

yellow ducklings on water

You can try not to believe the dizzy river or trembling mountain as a matter of pride, or maybe fealty to the fact of this ruin. This street where I work takes its name from a water body I’ve never seen. I’m afraid to ask. The mountains above the freeway, behind the strip mall by the Arco, seem often to sit in silent judgement, accepting the cell phone towers at their crowns like parents too tired to argue.  Here, in this concrete landscape of grey-beige buildings with garish trim and iron rails, where the center that once had shade trees now calls to mind a prison yard, I am so often in mourning that even the occasional peal of real laughter sounds like the fall of the last pane of glass in a war-ravaged former home, and all I can see are the abandoned tricycles tipped over in the soot of the wreck.

But yesterday morning, in the dingy shade of a narrow steel awning, above the concrete walk, against the industrial stucco, on top of a steel grey electrical box, there was a nest of baby birds my love had rescued when he saw it beginning to slip. I was afraid to touch them, he said, but–– we had learned, as children in the wake our parents’ wars, that even our hands could mean death to whatever still managed to hatch. The freeway roared behind us, and the leaf blowers in the parking lot, and we stood there, beholding. Soon we were a small circle of celebrants, calling Oh! and Oh, look! One shared how she had watched the slow build over time, afraid to believe her ears when she heard them finally, the day before.

The babies called back to us, lifting their fuzzy heads, opening new beaks wide, something that sounded like See us! See! See! –– as if to echo our nearly muted hopes, amplified to drown all other noise; as if to answer those questions we feared to ask, about the possibility of life, even now. Hi birds! I called back, open palm over heart.  Hi! Hi! Look at you, I repeated, again and again, gaping, a fool helpless in witness.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

7 thoughts on “More than an Elegy”

  1. Oh, this is beautiful, Stacey. It has so much emotion and deep feeling within the words. The picture you paint here, I can see so vividly. I love the bit about the mountains … ‘seem often to sit in judgement, accepting their cell phone towers at their crowns like parents too tired to argue.’ This conjures up such a clear image of the almost worn and weary mountains. And I love that last verse too – so gentle and delicate.

  2. Are you often in mourning because of the industrial landscape, the fact that you’re at work, or both 🙃?

    1. Oh, definitely both. The speed of it, the concrete, and the relentless pace.

      1. I get that. I’m lucky I’ve been working mainly for myself and working from home for the past couple years and get a lot of balance and time to myself, so important.

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