A Poem for Elee

It is two weeks since the death from cancer of Elee Kirk — who for so long has been my closest companion, wisest advisor and greatest friend. And so I find myself sitting here, watching the wheeling seagulls over the rooftops, looking up into the blue of the late summer sky, and thinking how much Elee loved evenings such as this one. And I find myself thinking how — had circumstances been different, were it not for some copyist’s error at the level of Elee’s cells — we might still both be here, idling and chatting, talking through our various projects and plans, wondering what to cook for dinner, and thinking about whether we should later head out for a walk in the meadows to catch the slanting evening sunlight.

I do not know really what to write about Elee’s death. What do you write about something like this? So many friends have confessed to me, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ And I have had to respond by saying that neither do I. In the face of all this sadness and grief, words are difficult to summon. They don’t seem to do enough. But still it is necessary to speak. As Levinas knew, although the said is always inadequate, the saying is always necessary. So I am grateful for all those words of support and comfort from friends and family and strangers. And also, despite Levinas, I can’t help wondering whether said may be more potent, less inadequate, than it can sometimes seem.

But in the absence of managing to write anything particularly coherent here and now, I wanted to share the link to Elee’s obituary from the University of Leicester here. It is a short piece that gives some sense of Elee, of her generosity, and of her work.

As for me, I’m going to end this here with a translation I did this morning of a poem by the poet Zhang Rong (444 –497). And then I’m going to head out into the meadows, and catch the slanting evening sunlight.

*

Farewell Poem by Zhang Rong
(trans. W. Buckingham)

White clouds
[nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp]dispersed over the hills;
clear breezes
[nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp]stilled under the pines.

If you wish to know
[nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp]the sorrow of parting —
alone on the terrace,
[nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp][nbsp]gaze at the bright moon.

*


別詩 — 張融


白雲山上盡
清風松下歇
欲識離人悲
孤臺見明月

 

Image: photo of Elee taken in Anren, China on Christmas Day 2015.

Comments 12

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  1. A beautiful reflection and caused me to re-read that great love poem, the Song of Solomon.

    ‘Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; campfire, with spikenard,’. Etc

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  2. Best translation I have ever seen! Even beautiful in its sound.

    I am very sorry for your loss. Her beautiful smile is in our heart. If you ever have a chance to come to Taiwan, let us know!

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  3. Dear Will,

    So so sorry to hear about Elee. I was thinking of you recently as I read Grace Dane Mazur’s ‘Hinges’ with its explorations of tales of the underworld, and of how well you handled them, and it has another layer of sadness and meaning now.

    Huw

  4. Hi Will

    I’ve just learned about the passing of Elee. I’ll remember with the fondness the times you and Elee partook in refreshments at Atticus and still remember being peeved you were leaving the ‘Wood for Leicester :). I followed Elee’s academic progression as I began on my journey down that road and will be forever grateful that Elee invited me to take part in a symposium at Leicester. Elee was a committed and passionate women, especially in the power of museums to delight, educate and amuse us.

    Sending good thoughts to you and if/when you are back in Brum and want to hook up for a beer get in touch.

    Take care

    Jez Atticus

  5. Very sorry for your lost Will, I did meet you and Elee a couple of times but didn’t have the chance to say more than a hello and catch a glimpse of both your bright smiles. It is truly sad, and one cannot find words to describe these feelings. My sisters, whom you know better (Nour and Aya) and I, give our sincerest and heartfelt condolences. May you have the strength and patience to get through this. Keep smiling brightly, celebrate her life and know that she is resting.

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