I have taken to walking the graveyard,
An oak-tree’d resting place
Under whose towering limbs
A treasure of autumn leaves and acorns fall.
Strangely soothing, this gliding above the dead,
Pausing to note a name, an age, doing the math,
Adding or subtracting my own advancing years in
A fruitless assessment of my place in line.
Fall’s fierce abiding beauty comes at a price,
Golden everywhere sans the dark abyss where it points,
Each October a plaintive call to arms and attention,
Open arms of a love, that is, and attention to time, precious time.
Under every stone, a story of one who breathed, perspired,
Dreamed, questioned, loved, risked—and suffered, of course—
As I suffer now running hard up the hill from the potter’s fields,
Toward the stone monuments of nobles who lie there just as dead.
Breathless, I walk again, blood coursing, eyes horizoned,
Seeking a still point around which everyday life turns,
Not to stop time but to better watch its march, its inexorable
Passage over these paths where I bow in such wistfulness and joy.
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Rotating banner photos top of page courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Photo of Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery by David Berry, Rohnert Park, California, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dberry/
Death is the one thing that makes us all the same; human, limited, and a soul that envisions the eternal.
I like it…thanks for sharing. I do the same in our little cemetery, while I catch my breath, hands on my hips, between hill reps, thankful that I’m still alive and privileged to suffer a bit while exercising. I look at those old headstones and am reminded what a brief, uncertain journey this is.
Thanks, Linda, so glad you enjoyed.
Yes, Robert, death is the great and final unmasker, humbling the prince and pauper alike, no matter the expensive tombs and baubles the prince is sent off with to the hereafter.
Alec, “brief, uncertain journey” indeed! I love that as a summary line for the radical contingency we face every day, which we have to acknowledge and even appreciate without letting it paralyze us. Hill reps in the graveyard certainly help set things aright!
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”
You are Eliot’s Prufrock?
Well, you have given me the singular pleasure of being up late reading Eliot, a long familiar if lately unvisited place of great moral urgency and purpose, and of moving within the musicality of his words. I always feel snapped to attention in my deepest parts by Eliot; he won’t abide any less and there’s no purpose reading him without access to those depths.
There’s no doubt some Prufrock in me, in most people perhaps; the long inner grapplings and indecisions on so many things:
“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
But I think Prufrock is more haunted than I, despite my penchant for graveyards. I get the sense he could have exercised more—and I’ll bet he didn’t have a dog to accompany him, twice the pity…
Thanks for this reminder, Shawnta!
Happy to hear that you do not resonate with his pessimism or alienation….I suppose it is the self-reflection that is similar. He measures his life in “coffee spoons”, just as you assess ‘your place in line’. Both poems equal in depth of self-examination and rich in sensory imagery. Thank you, Andrew.