Little by Little by Karen Mulhallen

Poem title: Little by Little Poet name: Karen Mulhallen Poem: For Michael Mitchell Writer/Photographer/Friend Raconteur Extraordinaire 1943-2020 Poco a poco, Little by little, hour by hour, day by day, you wait for your departure, canny in choosing firecracker day, The Queen’s Birthday, Victoria Day, a celebratory day, calendar day, admirably Canadian as you sail off before dawn, take yourself to the other place just as the sun is preparing his own passage. Ride on the billowing waves; Sail on through winds and the tide. You were a sailor in many guises— Wily like Odysseus, a lover of women, and the siren’s song. Sail on through gates of ivory and gates of horn— Some dreams, they say, pass there and do deceive and some, they say, do come to pass. Little by little the light fades, the prism loses its colour— We will think of you in your boats, frail and tough saluting the morning’s minion— Teaching us all how to die. Your books— lost landscapes, lost times, lost animals, lost people, great elegies to the mess, while we hurry on the path to self-destruction— turning each of us always to fundamentals. You watch Ossie in his Jamaican garden Surrounded by frangipani, guava, and coffee trees, His voice a whisper, ” I’m sorry I’m taking so long to die”. My last visit to your hospital room: Still so many laughs, your room licensed: Who would have thought a hospital would sanction a private bar. You were irresistible. And after all these months, looking much more handsome without your hair: I’m going home soon, you said, as soon as I can get strong. They’ll let me out. Look, here’s a rubber band, I am building muscle, doing isometrics in my bed. Weeks pass, and long telephone conversations. Where are you, you would ask? Which room? What is it like? Oh, and yes, soon, very soon, I am feeling better. What are you reading? What are you writing? But the light is changing, Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Poco a poco, Little by little. End of Poem. Credits: Copyright © Karen Mulhallen Karen Mulhallen has published 17 books of poetry. Her new collection of fifteen elegies will be published in the UK by the Black Spring Publishing Group in 2021. The group of elegies was short-listed for the 2019 International Beverly Prize for Literature. All of these elegies which exam contemporary tragedies and heroism are based on news stories. In working between poetry and prose in these documentary elegies I am asking whether the traditional elegy with its dignity and sonority can encompass the scale of contemporary disasters.