Weep for Adonais

Weep for Adonais

Weep for Adonais

     After Percy Shelley died, his wife shrouded his heart in silk and carried it everywhere with her.

     Percy’s boat, the Don Juan, sailed into a storm. By the time his body was recovered, the sea had ravaged it beyond recognition. He was identified only by his clothes and a book of Keats’s poetry that had remained in his pocket through the rough waters. His family cremated him but, no matter how hot the fire blazed, his heart would not burn.

     So, Mary Shelley kept the tenacious organ, a relic consecrated by fire. When she died, it was found among locks of their dead children’s hair and wrapped in one of Shelley’s last poems, Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats.

     Lying in this antiseptic hospital room, it is the delicate symmetry of this death that focuses my questions, my fears, but also leaves me burning, like an ant under the glass.

     What does a man’s death say about him, about his life? And what of mine? Who will shroud my heart in silk, write my elegy, carry my poetry towards his demise?

     The questions proliferate wildly until I am trembling atop a fathomless sea of them in my frail vessel. As the water begins to rush in, I know this: I fear being forgotten more than I fear death, I fear that my heart will not survive the fire.