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 beg 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.



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