Michael Collier

Elegy for a Long-Dead Friend

Last night when you appeared
you brought the sacks of shoes
and folded clothes that stood
waiting in your garage
for someone else to remove
the day you died.


Because you were laid out
at the coroner’s when I arrived
you couldn’t know what I saw:
boots and sneakers, sandals
jammed in grocery bags, shirts
and pants no longer stylish.


Months before, what was it
you said, “Don’t come around
here again?” So why these visits?
Why the burden of this evidence?
And silent as you are
does your presence mean forgiveness?


There was also, you should know,
a flat tire that gave your car
a slouched, defeated look.
I saw it before I saw the discards.
In Dante’s hell the souls
spend their time repaying themselves


with their own sins. He witnessed
their anguish but was rarely moved
and Virgil never. Next time
you visit bring that tire,
wear it like a necklace
and we’ll set it on fire.

Michael Collier
“Angry Elegy for a Long-Dead Friend” is from Dark Wild Realm (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).