Megan Neville

Elegy with Apologies to Leon Jakobovits James

Six feet away a girl asks do I
know a term for saying a word
until it loses ground,
becomes a different
thing a bubble on the tongue
& I am sorry to tell her
no there is no word in English
but in fact there is &
it is grief. Five years I’ve
driven an automatic yet
when someone cuts me off
I still attempt to downshift & every
night: I should have called my dad today
& then I remember: oh. He is
a concept, not a thing. This
tearing peeling coring like a
placenta detaching after birth
& I’ve forgotten the lower half
of my face. I first learned flirting
watching my mother sweat &
call priests their given names,
most of which meant grief.
Just because I sense it with my
tongue doesn’t mean it’s flavor. An
exhalation of locusts my babies
with bones on their outsides. I’d
rather stab than bludgeon, the blade
slick and tight. Laughing on
screens, everyone’s eyes take dark.
You, all, organs of mine: watch.
Halley’s comet will return & I want
to live that long. In my first look
it was a fuzz of light through
the lens, but it’s come into focus now
as grief. I wait like it is the second
coming of a god I could
lick & grab & this waiting also
is called grief. I’m so desperate
to find satisfaction that I googled it
& all the search turned up
was grief. Say it over & over with
ear drums wanting sharper strikes,
the mouth’s musculature fighting free
as teeth erode to air.

Megan Neville (she/her) is a writer and educator based in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work appears in The Academy of American Poets (, Cherry Tree, Pleiades, wildness, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Boiler, McSweeney’s, Lunch Ticket, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She is a poetry reader for Split Lip Magazine, and you can find her on Twitter @MegNev or online at