“Elegy 451” by Wendy BooydeGraaff

Haunting by Odilon Redon (1893 – 1894) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The keepers of the written words sat in the brisk spring air, the fire crackling in the center of their circle, sending sparks up high into the navy night. “This one is for the gods of grief,” the newest one said. She tossed her packet on the flames. “Grief is too much truth for those who would read these words. Turn, now, from the land of the living into the land of particles, the spirit, into the air they will breathe.” The fire ate the curling pages, illuminating one lone sheet for a brief moment, then crackled them down as one heap.

The others who captured the mist and lore of humans hummed and rocked in unity with the newest one. Then the tiny one stood with her sheaf of words. “These have been returned to me yet again.” She rose the sheaf high. “There are no more to read, no more to pass. This one is for the gods of the corner, who hear all that goes on behind their backs.

The litany went on over hours and heights of flame.

“This is for the gods of flight, who see the world as a whole.”

“This is for the gods of puzzles, who fit together the broken mosaics until an end is seen.”

“This is for the gods of fantasy/ erotica/ messaging/ connection/ beliefs.”

“This is for the gods of everything,”—until the last of the greats had their words burned into ash. Then the circle closed in, steel-toed boots stomping embers to fine grit. They gathered the still warm soot into metal buckets and carried two buckets each to their end of the living, dropping handfuls on doorsteps, handfuls on the feet of the sleeping, handfuls on the roots in the kitchen gardens, community gardens, botanical gardens, handfuls on the fruit trees, the greenhouse soil, the hydroponic water, handfuls mixed into the cattle’s hay, the chickens’ grain. The words filtered into the sap, the buds, the pea pods, the skewered zucchini, the seeds of tomatoes. The words dissolved into the chewing mouths of the living,
while the keepers of the written word slept dreamless sleeps.

Wendy BooydeGraaff’s poems, stories, and essays have been included in Splonk, Flash Frontier, CutBank Online, NOON, and elsewhere. Find her on wendybooydegraaff.com  or @BooyTweets.

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