Breathing in the Graveyard

I took the time to stop tonight,
And walk in a nearby graveyard.
Whose ground this is I know,
But He does not mind my seeing it before
My time.
I came quietly as I could, though only the muse
Had arrested me.
I asked their pardon for the intrusion,
But said I meant no disrespect:
I came as a student, to learn how to be dead.
They were much better at it than I.
One vacant space was there.
I took my cap off, crossed my hands on my chest,
An amateur at dying.
Eyes closed,
World spins round my grave,
Myself temporarily withdrawn,
Touching this world the least I could.
Something told me not to sleep there,
Not to parody the masters of rest,
A gift they achieved before me.
My time is not yet come.
I left, again silent,
Like a child who does not understand many things.
And now to sleep.


Root, Sidewalk

This pavement sidewalk is cracked and creaking,
Bowing before the blows of a subterranean rebellion
That the tree roots fight
Against the bands and belts and cords of concrete
That bind this city.
As I trip and stumble over the battlefield,
The stub of my toes mimics, for a moment,
The slow motion war
That has been taking place for years, quietly
Even dignifiedly,
Below the blurry forms of passing pedestrians.
This tree is patient.
It will defeat the sidewalk,
Long after, I, in my hurried way,
Have recorded the fact
In a few hurried, broken words.

When Death Tomorrow

(This is a poem by Ogden Nash, salvaged from a 1935 Magazine Verse Anthology.)

When Death tomorrow, or the morrow after,
Dismounts before the door, and knocks,
O let me face him not with idiot laughter;
The sly bravado of the cornered fox;
Nor yet with cringing knee, nor curling lip,
Nor drugged composure,
Nor genial words of false good-fellowship,
Submit to the ineluctible foreclosure.
O sudden visitor who will not stay,
But, turning, bear the householder away,
Grant that I open boldly and go forth, knowing
That what was entrusted, I in trust have kept;
Go quietly, in the knowledge that at my going
Some scoundrels have rejoiced, some children wept.

Meditations on a Slow Hand

Where I work,
There is a clock that time-travels,
Starting with a single minute into the past,
and even going as far as five.
Here there are so many things that have not happened.
Infants still hiding in wombs,
Proposals trembling on the lips of trembling suitors,
Some soul not winging its way heavenward,
Still on the road, unbroken by accident.
Here I can sit,
Five minutes unaware
That the breath of the angel sounding the last trump
Has been blown.
Here it has not even
Been breathed.