Lyrics quoted from the Charles Trenet song “Que Resteil de Nos Amours,” recorded by Marlene Dietrich in 1946.
Like Josef’s skull ascending from Brazilian soil
On a twine, she rises from her famous white bed,
Exhumed by morning. I am hunted into daylight
When I wake like that, god-hungry, startled.
Now that my father is gone, he has gone
Luminous. I wish him love.
The late sun comes to my own midwestern heart
At evening. Nights now, the anorexic soul
In spandex tights slips out of bed with me,
Spreads her black acrylic legs, tendons
The color of an unreasonably aroused male animal,
Starving, always wide & wide awake.
I want movie kinds of kisses. Now Dietrich’s dead,
I’m ankle-deep in melancholia again.
A man & his little girl on a stamen red sleigh, first
Snowfall of the year, both oddly blond in the bare
Afternoon, downhill. In the matter of the breaking
Of the heart, we are easily fractured. I wish you shelter.
From the storm, A cozy fire to keep you warm.
I knew it would feel this way. I never knew
It would feel like this. A man in an English stadium
Caught in a wintry patch of flame, rolls down the green
Of Yorkshire, begging for water, longing to be put out
Like a pinched wick, snuffed, an old horse gone lame.
This morning, half of the Rhine was declared biologically dead.
By nightfall, the eels will be floating face up toward Germany,
Lighthearted & unlovely. I will wait for you in Schaffhausen.
There’s a puncture in the southern reaches
Of the earth’s protective atmosphere. I’m trying
To be moved by this, but I’m more piqued by Rapture now.
No one will ever love you like you wanted to be loved.
Your new woman is Easy on the Eye, you say. Since this recent
Nomenclature for the Wind Chill, the world’s a colder place
I think. Less than zero Tuesday night.
I’m the kind of girl who calls from baths in old extravagant hotels.
I think of ruined thighs. I wish you bluebirds in the spring.
I was drinking moonshine out of a clear cup. You Montana
Boys will marry one day after all, in small vehicular domiciles.
Nothing changes much. The stupor of these cold November nights,
A wife stewing gumbo in a crockpot. I will travel east to New Jersey,
Land of the Most Lovely. Even the dead want to go home.
Someone made them promises they couldn’t keep. My loving heart
& I agree, Now is the time to set you free. When I got off
The tracks of a long afternoon into this turnip-colored earth,
You were drunk & down somewhere in America, your father in the deep
South, courting a girl still in a cotton frock this late in the year.
When my own father died, we buried him with a trout fisher’s book
& we all thought we couldn’t go on anymore. I can’t take my eyes
Off the news. Planes pass constantly over the snow belt,
Even in peacetime & the roads here go on & on, unreasonably flat.
No one is baptized. After a death in the family
Gadgets go wrong for a while; it’s nothing
You shouldn’t expect, the near-collapse of anything electrical
Or bound by heat or light. This is the gospel truth.
In the evangelic dusk
Way past the Bible belt, they’re killing off
Large common beasts, shackle & hoist method.
Don’t you think they know what’s going on?
All of those old prophets were the same: doom, doom.
But most of all, When snowflakes fall
I wish you love. Monday, after a long weekend, your sister woke
Tattooed. Small, softtalking at the hip, coming for to carry her home.
These things aren’t revocable, you know; it’s a graceful, toxic kind
Of thing, tattoos. I wish her love. I miss my man again,
Curious & passionate like Josef’s bones arising after all these years
Alone & unidentified in South America. I bid this slim farewell.
Now Dietrich’s dead; we turn left here.
Lucie Brock-Broido (1956–2018), a longtime contributing editor of AGNI, published four collections of poetry, all with Knopf: Stay, Illusion (2013), Trouble in Mind (2005), The Master Letters (1997), and A Hunger (1988). Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA Fellowships, and the Witter-Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she taught in the MFA program at Columbia University until her death on March 6, 2018.
Our founder delivered this eulogy at Story Chapel in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.