Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Remembering Vic Elias: 10 years later

A great influence on me and my poetic journey came from Chicago-born, London Ontario poet Vic Elias. A much-beloved Professor of Applied Mathematics at Western University, Vic was also the author of 4 wonderful books of poetry. His poems also appeared throughout the years in various literary journals including locally-published Afterthoughts (which ran from 1994 through 2000). His reading style was candid and engaging, funny and poignant. He was also a very thoughtful and kind human being. He passed away as a result of cancer back in the Spring of 2006.

On the Transmigration of the Soul
of a Jewish Child

Every night
my Nathan cries out,
a two-year-old
strangling in a dream
I cannot wake him fully
He screams with open eyes,
his legs a fury of kicks into the wall

In my dreams of Warsaw, 1943,
I hold a pillow to his face until the wall
is untroubled by his feet

©1998 Vic Elias
published in Afterthoughts XII

Junior-Congregation Job

It's all tidied up by the end:
new children, restored health, doubled riches
vindication from unctuous comforters
and (where was I when the world was made?) 
a verbose whirlwind whose adamance betrays
a guilty conscience

outside this narrative
are neglected graves

a continent whose house dust
is human ash. On Yom Kippur

I read the storybook version of Job
to newer Jewish children

wishing for hot coals
to touch my lips

©2004 Vic Elias

Elena's Mother

She lies 
voluptuous in satin
no Mona Lisa cupidity
playing upon her lips

The priest's untamed beard
and shoulder-length hair
predate any Summer of Love
predate praesidium and Soviet and cell
He intones the ancient Slavic words
to ease this soul's passage to Christ
leaving us unBelievers
rigid and silent
as icons

There is no melody in 
this sacerdotal chanting
save that of wild wind
across vanished steppes
the plodding of bare feet
through autumnal mud
four wars ago

The priest swings a censer
in rhythm with his prayers

Each swing 
ends in a puff
of camphor smoke

a sweet savour to please 
older and earthier deities

and yes, to keep us
from smelling death

©2004 Vic Elias

poems 2 and 3 taken from Drinking with Old Men
published by South Western Ontario Poetry, 2004

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