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Novarr, Grace, Elegaic Poems


Grace Novarr
Age: 17, Grade: 12

School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educators: Amy Dupcak Remland, Kasumi Parker

Category: Poetry

Elegaic Poems

Elegy for Toni Morrison
It’s not that I’m untethered, it’s just that the rope is slack.
I pull because I want to be pulled back, but instead, my arms
are sore. I can’t help that I’m like this. You told me to read
Jazz by Toni Morrison and I couldn’t finish it, and then I woke up
this morning and found out she’d died. I can’t help feeling
like I killed her. Or I killed something. Bubbles bursting
on a microscopic level everywhere I go. I want to finish the book,
but it’s too much about love and I’m trying not to believe
in that anymore. If I did, I’d have to sit down in the middle
of the road. Sometimes they plant trees there, because everyone
wants this, sometimes. To stop in their tracks and not have 
the world stop, too. I’m 17 and I want to be younger. To be small 
enough that I can fit inside a bubble. You told me that caterpillars
become nothing but goo while they’re in their cocoons. So 
they never truly get to experience flying. That’s just rebirth,
I said. I’d like to decompose without frightening anybody.
Just to see what else I could have been, in a rearrangement.
Variations on a theme and the theme is goo, and the way
love makes me feel is goo, too. So you understand 
why I had to sit down. Why I heard the news and I felt
responsible. All we can do is say, better luck next time.
And keep walking, and not stop.    Elegy For Stella
When Ray Charles sings “I Got A Woman”
I think of how I pick my nail polish off like it’s hurting me,
because I think sometimes I’m not 
the right kind of person to wear it.
Flake after flake onto the subway floor. Ray
checking himself into rehab. Ray cheating
on his wife. Ray moaning with all of the abandon
of knowing you’re only feeling one thing at the 
particular moment. When the train pulls into the station,
the screeching is all I hear. Now that my vision is getting worse,
I’m afraid to close my eyes. When I starve myself,
the hunger is all that I am. When I eat, the eating
is all that I ever have been. Ray Charles had a woman
and I was a woman, once, before I couldn’t be
any longer. When Stella killed herself, I thought
I’d hear about it from someone besides the news.
But two months later, her ex-boyfriend is kissing
a girl two years younger and two feet shorter
at his graduation party, and I’m watching, and I think
I’m sober again, and the smoke is going up
from the dancing crowd like a signal for help
and all I can see is the tongues
telling each other I’m here, I’m still here, and I wonder
what Stella would say. If her tongue 
is still haunting his mouth. I didn’t know Stella,
but I remember her presence. Her poetry
and how Marie-Rose said it was too obscure.
And how I said I like it because I can tell
how much she loves the person she’s writing about.
Then seven months pass and Stella kills herself
and the world is wailing like Ray Charles,
like a man releasing himself into a woman he’s not
supposed to love, and how when you’re the wrong person
that’s all you’ll ever be. 
Elegy for Frank O’Hara
after a particularly gorgeous sunset

There have not been enough
evenings of this color
since you died, I think
I’m sorry for the way
the street conceived your body
and claimed it again

My parents only ever drink one glass of wine
and I only ever drink spiked seltzer with my friends
on the Upper West Side and then we take the train to Brooklyn
where, perhaps, in some dim warehouse, we will be kissed

We, too, want to be wanted:
college acceptances, boyfriends
who don’t cheat on us, respect
in a domain, or all domains, or 

Coffeehouses where the regulars know our names
Sandwiches that always taste good, no matter our mood
Brie and pate will always remind me of my first love
and gelato will always remind me of the love before that

This is my city, and was yours too
I can’t imagine living anywhere else, 
except Paris, as you understand

Frank, in the new millennium, we got rid
of patron saints, we welcomed terrorism,
we watched as the world changed in the wrong way,
we derided classical music, we found that we were all
oriented sexually one way or the other, we strained
our emotions and now we are not shocked,
and you weren’t either, when sentences
extend forever from the various mouths of various anti-lovers

If ever the sky was purple, as it is now,
on Fifth Avenue in the 1950s, if ever you,
stepping out of a hotel with an artist-lover
and a bottle of water, swallowed a poem
instead of setting it down, just know, Frank,

in posterity, which is now, we are forgiving you
and every time a cloud threatens to rain and doesn’t
I think of you, my God, I do   Elegy For Old Love
All day long, my head hurts. On Court Street, 
I think of things I would tell you. How my vision 
has gotten worse since you’ve known me. 
Although, what hasn’t. You were blue and gold in the bellyful 

of heat we found unexpectedly
last winter. So much sunlight on snow, so much lip 
and tooth, and other things 
you can know of without knowing. 

February, take two. Of course, I wasn’t alive 
before I met you. And how you woke me, etc, etc. 
Things you say to feel less stupid:
I loved you the whole time. Was memory always 

this gradient? I say “April” like “sparrow”, 
“fleeting”, “greenhouse”. I say “May” 
like “mourning”, “morning”, “terror”. And you 
say nothing. I smile like I’m trying 

to wrench your face open
with the muscles in my own cheek. In a joke, 
I almost stop wanting you 
to want me. November, take two: 

you hit me like a fever pitch.
I won’t ever stop bleeding, won’t ever stop 
leaving myself in your wake like a dead thing, 
craving your pity like something unforgivable.