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“Little Elegy,” “Kansas, 1950 “Dirge,” and “Nunc Dimmittus”

by Don Thompson

“Little Elegy”

Last night I found her name

Listed in the catalog

Of dead sisters.

Just one of many—so many.

Touching it, my finger burned,

My tongue flickered

With a cold fire that never dies out

Somewhere essential within me.

“Kansas, 1950”

Dark in Grandpa’s barn, afternoon

Starlight through holes in the roof.

Squalid straw, manure,

Insistent sting of ammonia.

Fly sizzle only emphasizes

How silent it is—how unnerving.

Cows stay on task, ruminant,

But the old pinto side-eyes me;

Bares her yellow tombstone teeth,

Daring me to ride…

I did.  And she failed to scrape me off

On fence posts, branches, the barn door.


Not quite wind, a largo hum

In a flat minor

Oppresses, bears down on us.

Dark clouds on cue.

Finches that usually litter the trees,

Imperturbable doves have no use

For afternoons like this

And take refuge, leaving

Two crows, their worn-out

Black suits shiny, that just sit—

Bored as paid mourners

Waiting for last rites to begin.

“Nunc Dimittus”

This long life—like fruit

Rotting on the tree,

Unpicked because unapproachable

On thin branches beyond reach.

Still up there.  Remembering

Not those gone in season,

But the unripe, hard and green,

That fell too soon.

Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks.  A San Joaquin Almanac won the Eric Hoffer Award for 2021 in the chapbook category.   For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at

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