Twice you have been around the world
And once around your life.
You said to my wife, once:
“Oh no, I’ve made all my long trips.
Now I’ll make my short trips.”
Is this a long trip or a short trip
Or no trip?
You were always happy to be different.
You queer thing; you who cooked
Straight through the cookbook; you who looked
As if the children next door dressed you in the attic
And yet came home from Finland für
From head to foot: today you look regularly erratic
In your great lead-lined cloak
Of ferns and flowers,
Of maidenhair, carnations, white chrysanthemums,
As you lie here about not to leave
On the trip after the last.
Ah, Miss I
Hold not thy peace at my tears.
I hear moved—you unmoved, steadfast
The earnest expectation of the creature
That comes up, and is cut down, like a flower:
“We shall not all sleep, but in a moment,
In the twinkling of an eye,
We shall be changed. When this corruptible
Shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal
Shall have put on immortality,
Then death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
The words that they read over you
Are all that I could wish.
If my eyes weren’t open,
I’d think that I had dreamed them.
They seem too good for this former woman,
This nice dead thing that used to smile
Like a woodchuck that has learned to smile
When its keeper tells it: “Smile now!”
Where’s your smile
Now that the world is disassembling your features?
Is a smile like life,
A way things look for a while,
A temporary arrangement of the matter?
I feel like the first men who read Wordsworth:
It’s so simple I can’t understand it.
You give me the feeling that the universe
Was made by something more than human
For something less than human.
But I identify myself, as always,
With someone that there’s something wrong with,
With something human.
This is the sort of thing that could happen to anyone
Just now, behind the not-yet-drawn
Curtain (the curtain that in a moment will disclose
The immediate family sitting there in chairs)
I made out-off-stage looking on-stage,
Black under a white hat from Best’s
A pair of eyes.
Too young to have learned yet
What’s seen and what’s obscene, they look in eagerly
For this secret that the grown-ups have, the secret
That, shared, makes one a grown-up.
They look without sympathy or empathy,
It is as if in a moment,
In the twinkling of an eye,
I were old enough to have made up my mind
What not to look at, ever …
If a man made up his mind
About death, he could do without it
He could shut his eyes
So tight that when they came to wake him,
To shake him and to say: “Wake up! Wake up!
It’s time for you to die,”
He wouldn’t hear a thing.
Oh, Miss I—
If only I could have made you see it!
If only I could have got you to make up your mind
In time, in time! Instead of someone’s standing here
Telling you that you have put on incorruption,
You would have lain here-I can see it
Encased in crystal, continually mortal,
While the years rolled over you …
In my mind’s eye
I can hear a teacher saying to a class
About the twenty-first or -second century:
“Children, remember you have seen
The oldest man that ever didn’t die!”
Woman, that is.