Elliott Smith Is Dead


Awake in the deep bowl of the night
I flicked listless channels
hoping for something about old Russia
or nebulae and black holes

I found a news item
dead at thirty-four
they kept saying ‘suicide’
while a black ribbon running
across the screen repeated
‘Elliott Smith is Dead’
as though he were the Queen

there were grainy clips
of his punk rock days
then solo, in a white suit
losing the Oscar to Celine Dion

and the most lovely:
a dark, quiet interview
in a late night laundromat
rings of light reflecting in his eyes
and the black wood of his guitar

it was a warm night
I walked in the garden
inside the television sputtered
like a roman candle and outside
the bald blue moon lit up the lawn
a dark ice field

the white suit, the black guitar
I thought of the suicide scene 
in The Royal Tenenbaums
hair on the floor mixing with blood

and wondered if we really walk
on a carpet of flowers with Krishna
on that far off day
like in the Hindu pamphlet
in the dentist’s waiting room

before I woke up I dreamed
I sat with him at the glass bar of Nighthawks

I kept waiting for him to speak to me
and I kept waiting for morning
to come to the painting
but the long seedy night did not end




Two complicated keys in an envelope
next to a picture of you and me
which I have never seen.
When I turn on the tap,
cat fur comes out.

I know only one thing of tragedy
so I take you to those islands.
Instead of explaining I name them, pointing.
Ngamotu, Sugarloaf. Seagull Rock.

I have never driven before
and to add to the peril
I am not wearing any shoes.

The pedals are more rough and blacker
than the sand we find in the bed
every morning. Things heat up.
Glasses left on the fence overnight
crack as the weather rises.



Stefanie Lash has just completed her BA in Art History and English at Victoria. She has undertaken several workshops at the IIML including the inaugural Iowa Workshop with Shannon Welch in 2003. Next year, as part of the MA course at the IIML, she will be working on a collection of poems about her family history.