The title of Elizabeth Spires’s poem “Ghazal” does not indicate anything about its subject but describes the style in which it was written. A ghazal is a form of poetry that originated in Iran many centuries ago and made its way throughout the Middle East and Asia primarily through the extension of the Muslim influence in that part of the world. Over the years, people of other cultures and geographies began to experiment with ghazals, and today they may be found in the United States and many other western countries. The basic structure of a ghazal is generally retained by contemporary poets, although not many adhere strictly to the ancient rules of the original Persian poets.
Spires’s “Ghazal,” which appears in her most recent volume of poetry called Now the Green Blade Rises (2002), is a reflection on the death of her mother, as well as a contemplation on the inevitability of the poet’s own aging and eventual death. It is elegiac in tone and filled with quiet solitude, recalling specific moments of the tragic event: the phone call informing her of the news, the airplane flight to her mother’s town, the funeral, the jewelry she inherited, snippets of pleasant childhood memories. All of these thoughts are conveyed in brief images presented in couplets and maintaining some of the formal structure of a traditional ghazal.