About the poet
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) was an innovator, both in subject matter and form, writing in the...
Elegy for Jane
Elegy for Jane
I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,
A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing;
And the mold sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.
Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw;
Stirring the clearest water.
My sparrow, you are not here,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiny shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.
If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover.
'Elegy for Jane', copyright 1950 by Theodore Roethke from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Doubleday, 1966/ Faber, 1968), used by permission of the publisher, Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. The recording was made in the 1950s at the YMHA Poetry Center, New York, NY, and is used by permission of the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and is used with permission of the Library of Congress.