Ernest in Elysium

Why put the barrel in your mouth?
Why not the solar plexus, toward the heart,
or to your temple or one ear?
Why choose the palate to be burst apart
before you toppled over dumb-
struck from your favorite partridge gun?

Did you gulp that hot draught to quench
the images, conclude the sights and sounds
our minds record the years at war,
then replay over uncontested grounds,
through fitful sleep, beyond our will,
as clouded narratives of hell?

Stand deeper in the river now;
whip free your line and float a bristle fly
into that runnelled pool of shadows
where no trout will rise, no words apply.
The alder grove is opaline,
no twig or leaf quite what it seemed.


William Conelly

Author: William Conelly

William Conelly entered the Air Force at 17, received a Presidential appointment to the Air Force Academy at 18, and resigned from the Academy three months after turning 21, preferring any further studies to be in the liberal arts. He subsequently received both a BA and an MA under the tutelage of Edgar Bowers at UC Santa Barbara. Since 1987 his poetry has appeared irregularly in the USA and the United Kingdom. A novel of youthful revelation (Tether's End) and a poetry collection (Untested Grounds) are available from Amazon.

2 thoughts on “Ernest in Elysium”

  1. [Author’s note] I grew up pheasant and partridge hunting with my lifer father, admiring the work of Ernst Hemingway. After the extremes of my short career in the in the military — mostly mental I’ll confess — and the death of my father, I gave up hunting and considerably broadened my reading. No matter, Hemingway’s suicide played against something deep and personal in my psyche. As no writer of quality ‘dies’ as long as his or her works are read, I wanted to acknowledge Ernst’s immortality and, simultaneously, grant him a moment of altered vision. There are so many layers of experience between our extraction of a first breath from the universe and our returning a last…

    I wrote the initial draft of the poem over 3-4 days, thought it complete, and folded it into the manuscript I handed David Sanders (no longer with Swallow Press) for review. David recommended I NOT include it, at least not in that initial state. This is the rewrite and the changes have all come through 5 or 6 clarifying words, most of them in the second. I’m pleased Stephen’s seen fit to include poem here.

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