Elegy with Blue-Handled
Filet Knife

-August 26, 1975

The day she dropped me still bleeding
in Ann Arbor—fall semester, my duffel bag
jammed in back, we went to Drake’s for cold limeade
and Mam bought a double to-go, because
she’d stashed a pint of Mohawk under the driver’s
seat to brace her for the ride back north.
She knew I was never going back
to Da’s orange-and-brown hot dog stand,
not after Monday night, when he shoved me against
the fryer over a spilled order of onion rings
and kept coming like some Kerry bull
because I was not worth a good-goddam
and I thought of the blue-handled filet knife
I’d slicked across a honing stone
just before the dinner rush, the blade
still warm in four inches of sudsy water
and pulled myself to the stainless-steel sink—
splash sizzling across the black grill—backing off
her snorting man-bull, eyes wide, circling the prep table,
until an angel of a sane and better nature
whispered No, you’re gone tomorrow
and three hundred miles south, over limeades
in the calm of Drake’s Sandwich Shop
you’ll hear her say she loves you, for the first time
in your pathetic life, if you stumble out the back door
now, hide all night in the jack pine woods
and do not stab her man.


Greg Rappleye’s second collection of poems, A Path Between Houses (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000) won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. His third collection, Figured Dark (University of Arkansas Press, 2007) was co-winner of the Arkansas Prize in Poetry was published in the Miller Williams Poetry Series. His fourth collection, Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds, was published in the fall of 2018 by Dos Madres Press. He teaches in the English Department at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.