Elizabeth Spires


Elizabeth Spires is the author of six collections of poetry, including Worldling, Nor the Green Blade Rises and The Wave-Maker (W.W. Norton).  She has also written six books for children, including The Mouse of Amherst and I Heard God Talking to Me: William Edmondson and His Stone Carvings (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Recent poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in the Atlantic, American Poetry Review, Image, Five Points, and Poetry. She is a professor of English at Goucher College where she directs the Kratz Center for Creative Writing.

Photo credit: Madison Bell

When They Go

“…one felt there was no one to ask about anything.
Up to then, one felt someone knew.”

Ezra Pound on the death of Henry James

When all of them are gone, who
then shall we ask? The mountains
finally flattened, the statuary pulled
down, will we stand among the rubble
that spoke to us once, picking up
this stone and that, wondering what
there is left to say? Once, each
of our trusting hands found the waiting
hand of one of the ones who knew.
Now each burnished name floats
in ether without a face to match it to.
Like parents or constellations, for as
long as we could remember, they were
there as we struggled and fell and gasped.
Now, without a glance backward,
without an adieu!, they have vanished,
and we, who will never be monuments,
have become the caretakers. It is left
for each of us to speak, to falteringly
speak, to the ones left in our charge:
Children, though you mistake me
for someone else, I will find
whatever it is you have lost.
Here, let us go on together.
For a little while, let us go on.