Andrea Hollander Budy


Reluctant Elegy 

     for Nikki Atwell, 1982 - 2002


I rose earlier than usual this morning,
no work today, no job I had to dress for, 

only the view I love from my study window
of the world coming to life. 

I stood at the dark window a long time,
a cup of cocoa warming my hands. 

The sun should show itself soon, I thought.
Yesterday my husband helped me  

arrange my books alphabetically by author
onto new shelves my brother-in-law built, 

poetry on the west wall, prose on the east.
Anton Chekhov, Kelly Cherry, Kate Chopin, 

I stopped for a moment at John Clayton,
mourning again the death of his son 

and thought of course of you.
It took us all afternoon.  Then we drove 

to the funeral home for the viewing.
Jewel in that coffin, you were like the sun 

that finally entered this morning, first
startling the darkness, then removing it, 

returning the familiar world to me again
the way I left it, the way I expected it back.   

If you had lived to write the books
I believe were inside you, I would have  

placed them on the top shelves between Ashbery
and Auden, Abbott and Atwood.



(photo by celise Varnedore)