Elegy by Sam Cheuk

for Adam Litovitz

Fuck you, man. Waking me up like that.
Sorry I haven’t written lately. I know
You’re dead. I know you’re dead.

They always begin with some place familiar
the mind tries to reconstruct, borrowing
scattered details—swagger of leaves browning,
the earthy knitted sweater you lent me once,
the way my roommate’s cat is seated
in the frame of a quiet window, yawning
gloriously in the lazy mid afternoon—
to remake the scenery of some autumn.

Tonight it was the backyard of a house
I rented, you lapping towards an old mutt,
a St. Bernard mix maybe, that I borrowed
from somewhere in my mind, and two walkers
whose feature I cannot redraw were I
to describe them before a composite artist.

Their facelessness felt knowable tho,
by the way they were coaxed into meaning,
the dog accompanying their presence.
What I knew (do I?) was that you were you,
by the awkward motion of your enthusiasm
as you jolted towards the dog, it meeting you
in mid-air lunge, your machine gun giggle
sumo-wrestling the hulking beast, echoing
in a vaulted blue sky crisp against the branches.

If I can rebuild that into something almost real,
your presence almost real, the place,
can you revisit me next time in sketches
of my hometown? The bars I would show you,
you drunkenly jumping on an exercise bike
discarded in your old alleyway, but let this
alley be mine, sweat under the orange streetlight
blended into the black of an unstartled night, the viscous
summer air stranded in this windless harbour, and the fog
steaming your glasses in the dan-dan noodle shop
I used to go when sleepless, to fuck your Jewish stomach
up for a laugh; we’ll always be king, we’ll always be king.

Come visit me again, at your tiding. So I can
recapture, remiss the warmth all at once
in this foggy, undisguised winter morning light,
here, a lump in my throat slated at the start of day.

Sam Cheuk is the author of Love Figures (Insomniac Press, 2011) and Deus et Machina (Baseline Press, 2017). He holds an MFA in creative writing from New York University and BA in English literature from University of Toronto. “Elegy” is part of a new manuscript tentatively titled Marginalia.