Elegy for Everything

by Jessica Barksdale

I’m still thinking about my sister’s
earring, the one I lost on the gay bar

dance floor, back when a gay
bar in the suburbs was subversive,

slightly dangerous, my two friends 
and I there to support our student,

who was gyrating on a box as we scrabbled
on the floor looking for the golden

leaf, fake, of course, but half of the pair 
I kept when my sister died. The pressure 

of the jewelry against my skin allowed
me to remember her in the hours and days

almost year since she died. But that night, first
I bumped and grooved and sweated to the music,

tossing back my head, throwing up my arms, 
singing and crying and hoping and smiling, 

and then back at the table, I lifted my hand 
to touch my ear, to touch her, to remember her

in those last minutes, she in the bed, she not breathing, 
and the earring was gone, my ear lighter, my body 

free but sad, and then we searched and came up 
with nothing but dust, a small purse, a sock. Now, 

twenty-nine years later, I’m still on that floor, eyes 
wide, looking. I’m still in the room with my sister,

waiting, I’m still here, sitting, mourning everything.

About the author:

Jessica Barksdale is the author of the poetry collection Grim Honey and the novel The Play’s the Thing, both published in 2021. Her novel What the Moon Did is forthcoming February 2023. Recently retired, she taught composition, literature, and creative writing at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California for thirty-two years and continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.

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