Virginia Konchan

November 22, 2021 Konchan Virginia


Final closeout, clearance sale, you said:
everything must go.  Ok, I said gloomily,
watching while the movers began hauling
treasures from our museums of natural history,
ancient rituals, modern art, literature, technology
& science, transportation, immigration, and music
away, after assigning each item a monetary value:
was it variable or fixed?  I’ll never know, because
we don’t talk financials, though I once sketched
a drawing of Rilke’s gratified pair on the carpet,
in an unknown place of fantastical desire and its
consummation, obsession, torture, intoxication,
and release—a tower of pure pleasure sung of
by King Solomon when he addresses his bride,
calling her a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots,
whose cheeks are decked with ornaments, neck
with strings of jewels—onto whose bodies are
thrown the silent dead’s last coins of happiness,
hoarded and kept for a lifetime.  In my drawing,
however, instead of depicting the couple being
showered with spare change by dead onlookers
while nude, which doesn’t sound very pleasant,
I put the coins in their eyes, then a money sign
over the coins.  Fetish is Always a Metonym,
I called the sketch, then hung it on the wall.
As scholars note, putting coins over the eyes
of the dead dates to Aristophanes, who wrote
about placing coins in the mouths of the dead
to pay Charon the boatman, to forge his way
metaphorically, mythologically, allegorically,
and symbolically from the land of the living.
How can I compare thee to a summer’s day
when the atmosphere in our house is so thin
and shot through with radioactive isotopes
that I, too, fear dying of aplastic anemia
like Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie did
in 1934 at the Sancellemoz sanatorium,
after years of exposure to X-Rays while
serving as a radiologist during WWII:
her remaining papers and cookbooks
are kept in lead-lined boxes, and only
accessible by those in hazmat suits.
Farewell scurvy, yellow fever, polio:
sayonara, fatal embrace of black death.
Later alligator, sea cow, Pyrenean Ibex.
Toodledoo, quill pens:  who or what’s next?
Adiós outhouse, sundial, typewriter, CD.
Arrivederci hourglass, VHS, analog TV.
Walkman, Betamax, Cathode ray tube:
immeasurable, format wars’ casualties.
Auf Wiedersehen icebox, phone books
and booths, paper receipts, draft animals,
print culture, authors, authorship, and truth.
Dasvidaniya ocean liners, forts, defensive
walls, and moats:  celestial navigation with
any device but radio, radar, digital satellite.
Au revoir gunpowder, bayonet, and sword:
we’ll never again have Paris, not like that.
What god, then, will save us from attack—
Herodotus, Van Gogh, or Pieter Bruegel
Elder and Younger, a father-son Flemish
painter duo whose work was conceived in
private but sold in local and export markets?
So long, serendipity.  Heartbreak is a spondee,
but how shall I price it, whatsoever shall I do?
Count, mourn, measure, and sift, until all that’s
left is legacy, and elegy’s endlessness is through.

The author of four poetry collections, Bel Canto (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2022), Hallelujah Time (Véhicule Press, 2021), Any God Will Do and The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon, 2020 and 2018), a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017), and four chapbooks, as well as coeditor of the craft anthology Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poems (University of Akron Press, 2023), Virginia Konchan‘s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and The Believer.