Stephen Vincent


Elegy in Red

Grieve in the morning.
Grieve in the afternoon.
Grieve. Grieve.

Your mother. Your father.
Your friend. Your lover. The brother,
sister, son and daughter:

Unto the fourth day, unto the fifth,
upon the waters. Upon the night. Upon the day.


Stone upon the hill.
Stone upon the heart.
Name upon the stone.

Elm. Pine. Eucalyptus. Redwood.
Dark stone on the face.

Knife to the bone.



Devour sun.
Devour moon.
Devour earth.

Wound the snake.
Wound the alphabet.
Wound the numeral.

Break. Break.
Go to the broken circle.


The dead man.
The headless man.
The man an x in his mouth.

Roll him out.
Roll him out into the street.
Kick him into the forest.
Kick him far.


Cry no tenderness.
Cry no fear.
Cry no hate.
Cry no love.
Cry no loss.
Cry no pain.
Cry no grief.
Cry no anger.
Cry no compassion.
Cry. Cry.

Her laundry line is thin.
Will her clothes fall down?
Her laundry line is thin:
crimson jacket, blue brassiere,
unmatched black lace
underwear and slip,
the velvet, violet sheets,
the white cord about to break:
parrots, green throated
in the palm tree,
mocking birds in the ivy,
robins, red, round and plump
bouncing up and down
the trolley track:
high above the hot blue, green,
red and yellow graffiti,
her laundry line is thin.
Will her clothes fall down?


Go away little
death Angel.
Get off my back door.
Isnít your father lonely?
Your mother home alone?
Go away, go away
little death Angel.
Break bread with the ancestors,
with the long dead.
Break bread with the moss on the Oak,
Heaven leaves her morsels
on a stone


Black sheet on the laundry line,
black blanket, too.
Black in the wind,
black under gray cloud,
black in front of the red robin running:

Met you as a stranger in a dark scarf.
gold cuffs, blue silk shirt,
curious cane,
the slender, dark shaft.


In fear of mourning,
do not go.
Release the flowers on the deck,
the honeysuckle on the walk.
The Hawthorne flower, the cherry,
the lavender lupine, the green vine
breaking through
the wire fence.



God says Hello
God says Goodbye
God takes your Hat
& sends you on your way.


Rise Death
Show your face
Let us see your hand
Show us how you decide:
Why you take
When you take
What you take

Death, Death
Show us your bitter,
Show us your contented face.


Who is this?
    Who comes in a white bonnet,
         a black shawl?
Who is this with a leather belt
    around his head?
Who is this?

You are the friend of somebody
      or nobody
You who walk the bridge
Script in hand
The curled paper rustling.


I dreamed the other night
I let my father go.
We had one last, one last hug,
head to arm.
I said itís alright, itís alright dad,
Youíve done your share and more:
Iíve my feet under me, the children, too.
Itís my turn.
Itís time to let me go.


Eeny Meany Mighty-Mo
Catch the Dealer
By the Toe:
Make him wink,
Make him blink
Eeny Meany Mighty
Trip to the left
Trip to the right
Fall into the furrow:
Blood, burrow,
Blood, burrow.


They are here
To come to take you
They are here
To come to take you

   No theyíre not
   No theyíre not

Iíve got a rope to the tree
              a rope to the tree
My father and me
My father and me.


          For whom the bells?
          For whom the chills?
          The basketball net turns ashen,
          twists to slant barely:
          the slow, gray wind.

          The more things die
          the more they remain the same:
          Someone said that.
          What do we do
          In a period of multiple griefs:
          Someone asked that.

          On the desert floor
          where the lake turns white
          a grain of salt will split a rock,
          a stone, then two or three,
          and then a whole field.
          Each stone divided by
          multiple cracks:
          each division a slender
          or thick petal:
          jade, gray and pink
          stone flowers


          Grief in the heart
          goes thick or thin.
          In the middle of a small,
          black, adjacent valley,
          A field of fresh, half white,
          cracked mud over which
          small, black lava stones
          proliferate, spiral and swirl,
          an undecipherable calligraphy:
          A story to tell.
          A story to forget.
          Over the next hill
          in a small, fresh crater,
          the inflamed-red rocks,
          charred black on one side,
          break into pieces
            on the touch or throw.


          How to put the death raft out
          How to put my brotherís body on the raft
          How to sing the song, a farewell song
          How to garland the raft with flowers
          How to pick the man or woman to guide the tiller
          How to watch the raft float by
          How to know the stream flows dark and deep
          How to know he will not come back
          How to know when to sing
          When to witness the trail
          The tracks and wheels
          The grooves in the earth
          That brought him to
          this riverís bank
          How to know when to weep


          Thereís a society in the City
          in which grief is worn as a perpetual gown.
          Heroically or not
          the men and women die every day.
          The society grapples in pain. They put hooks
          in their chests, their stomachs, their genitals,
          on each of their legs. Black weights are put
          on every hook, two pounds each. They raise the drums.
          The drums beat to a loud pitch. They dance. They dance
          in exquisite pain. Blood burns through them. Crown to toe.
          They praise God. They praise the heart. They praise the force.
          They praise the pain. They praise the grief
          and celebrate the life that survives among them.


          I have a flame my mother brings.
          I saw it in a dream the other night.
          She was about to disappear.
          It was her time.
          A man with a candle with a wooden holder appeared.
          I lit the candle.
          Into a dark shadow she disappeared.
          I have a flame my mother brings.


Sometimes, up on the wire
they hang your sweater
up-side-down: arms crumpled,
the tail doubled-up
back over the top
while the turtleneck Ė
itís collar, blind and stiff Ė
drops straight
Still, or swung back and forth, in the wind.

Sometimes days, or months,
can go like that. Some strange God
turns you over to dump the insides out:
there is no elegance in falling,
full, or part way, all love is lost:
if we are lucky, or persistent,
we do come back:
the sweater around our torso,
walk the winter months,
flame in the belly
song in the mouth.