Elegy—An Ode for Emily (Rose Included)
H. R. Stoneback
All Souls’ Eve: For the Philadelphia Memorial Services, November 9, 2019
In Memoriam: femme de lettres Emily Mitchell Wallace Harvey 1933-2019:
For ceremonies Franklin Inn Club & Christ Church (Est.1695) Philadelphia
It was somewhere long ago—was it Spain
or France or Philadelphia?—I first heard
her voice across the room (Gregory’s, too):
the keen clarity of exactitude,
the charming old civility of tone,
the shape and sound of each acutely chosen word.
I’d just done a conference keynote address:
She introduced herself, said I know your work—
her steady straight unblinking piercing gaze
confirmed authority of every phrase—
and now I’ve heard you speak I know you are the best.
I laughed and said Hope I resemble your remarks.
Then years of conferences with Emily.
We worked together, shaped events, she even
chose me to speak at her grand MLA Poets
Dinner at her beloved Club: from wheelchair, though it’s
rough, I stood to speak first time in years—her flattery?
Not with Emily—her words made you rise and believe.
Her words made you stand up, made you better
than you were, words never empty, precision
sprung from passion, searing fiery amplitude.
Her words made me join her Club where we colluded
to set things right in the world of arts and letters,
to weigh our pounds of truth and justice, make revisions.
Her words inspired, compelled me to write a book,
dedicated to her and her Sister Mary.
For her words, I featured her at symposiums.
I wanted her to take the Paris podium
last year at my Eiffel Tower donnybrook
but we know what happened: Fate’s song always Contrary.
She lost Gregory. She asked if she could
come to visit me in the Hudson Valley.
Always exact, she named the date well in advance.
I changed my plans. Felt bad I never took the chance
to see her country place near my ancestral woods
& Brownback Church right up my Chester Co. family alley.
She came and then I saw what I’d divined:
It was her farewell tour, the end was near.
We spoke not a word of death but eternity
danced in our odes to poetic fidelity.
She barely touched her food but drank her wine—
our clinking glasses chimed, rhymed with in memoriam tears.
Sing your songs poets
follow will-o’-the-wisp treasure lights
Sing your songs scholars
guardian jack-o’-lantern ghost-candles ignite
And now, Allhallowtide, I look at the light
in my garden where we talked the last time.
It’s scary warm at Midnight, Halloween—
great storm-change coming, 73 degrees.
It will drop 40-plus, freeze tomorrow night.
The last late rose of summer shimmers sublime.
Strange flickering light, trembling of the leaves
in the shadows under streetlight, wind-rise,
autumnal tree-limbs shake down their burden:
Mischief Night past, All Saints promise guerdon.
Emily was all Mind all Heart and now on All Souls’ Eve
she is all Soul—I place her rose with wisp-willed eyes:
Sing the song children
Christ Church bells are tolling
Sing the song children
Emily’s gone a-souling
~ ~ ~