(new jersey, 1918)
Its quiet graves were made for peace till Gabriel blows his horn.
Those wise old elms could hear no cry
Of all that distant agony—
Only the red-winged blackbird, and the rustle of thick ripe corn.
The blue jay, perched upon that bronze, with bright unweeting eye
Could never read the names that signed
The noblest charter of mankind;
But all of them were names we knew beneath our English skies.
And on the low gray headstones, with their crumbling weather-stains,
—Though cardinal birds, like drops of blood,
Flickered across the haunted wood,—
The names you’d see were names that woke like flowers in English lanes
John Applegate was fast asleep; and Temperance Olden, too.
And David Worth had quite forgot
If Hannah’s lips were red or not;
And Prudence veiled her eyes at last, as Prudence ought to do.
And when, across that patch of heaven, that small blue leaf-edged space
At times, a droning airplane went,
No flicker of astonishment
Could lift the heavy eyelids on one gossip’s upturned face.
For William Speakman could not tell—so thick the grasses grow—
If that strange humming in the sky
Meant that the Judgment Day were nigh,
Or if ’twere but the summer bees that blundered to and fro.
And then, across the breathless wood, a Bell began to sound,
The only Bell that wakes the dead,
And Stockton Signer raised his head,
And called to all the deacons in the ancient burial-ground.
“The Bell, the Bell is ringing! Give me back my rusty sword.
Though I thought the wars were done,
Though I thought our peace was won,
Yet I signed the Declaration, and the dead must keep their word.
“There’s only one great ghost I know could make that ’larum ring.
It’s the captain that we knew
In the ancient buff and blue,
It’s our Englishman, George Washington, who fought the German king!”
So the sunset saw them mustering beneath their brooding boughs,
Ancient shadows of our sires,
Kindling with the ancient fires,
While the old cracked Bell to southward shook the shadowy meeting house.
~Alfred Noyes 1880—1958~
She stayed up quite late many nights
Pricking her fingers raw sometimes
Telling herself that it did indeed matter.
She would thread a ribbon with such care that it seemed as if the ribbon was her own life
And each stitch with such precision!
Lined with words, with nouns, the adjectives kept together just perfect
Yet no one would wear her sorry stories
No, no one read the tear-stained woven fabrics
In such brilliant hues that even a cardinal would be jealous.
Scarlet after all is such a lovely color.
There’s a bird perched on a tree high above me
Singing is what he does best.
As he’s singing, I try to sing along
And I’m waiting for affirmation
I’m wanting to know
If I’m singing this song right,
Or if I’m singing it wrong.
It’s his song, not mine
& he’ll sing it all he wants to.
The bird has taken off, and I’m chasing him,
I am running so fast and so far
I’ve finally found him.
He was tired of the buckeye tree
So he perched himself on a Cactus.
I asked him, “What’s so special about a cactus?
Come back to the Buckeye Tree!”
But the bird just started singing his song again.
So I sing with him.
Now I have a new song that I want to show him.
I want him to sing my song with me.
So I started singing it,
But he’s not singing along,
Just his own song.
The seasons have just changed.
His feet are sore from that thorny Cactus
& he’s about to take flight again.
Maybe now he’ll want the buckeye tree
So he’ll be at home with me.
There he goes, he’s flying away!
So I’m running as fast as I can
I’m trying to catch up
But this isn’t the way
This is isn’t the way I remember,
The way to the Buckeye tree.
The bird is perched on a Palm tree.
I am tired, weary, and out of breath.
“A Palm tree! Why a Palm tree?
You are a Cardinal!
What did you fly away for anyway?
Come back to the Buckeye tree!
Be at home with me.”
The bird just began singing his song.
I am done trying to sing along.
It’s his song, not mine.
And as friends they stay and as friends they go. One step at a time as they mature and grow. Before your very eyes and behind closed doors, through the good and the bad no matter the score. You hold them when they cannot stand and you do the best you can, to comfort them in times of need and when life doesn’t go according to plan. Selflessness knows no bound and humility follows in suit, as you expect nothing in return no matter how terrible a dispute. You control what you can and leave the rest to fate, and hope faith is enough to keep a friendship before its too late. Before time takes its toll and brings to an end, a bond of understanding between an individual and a friend. To put the good of another before their very own, and wave goodbye to the wonderful friendship time has magically sewn. For this agreement they made in silent understanding, takes presidency over the different road each one will be traveling. And as their footprints begin to vanish in different cardinal directions, a simple reminder remains of that special connection. A joke or a poem, a memory or a song, one that remains in secrecy forever lifelong. And as the end creeps near and regret sinks in, there is one person in life they could count on through thick and thin. And with a loving smile and one final breath, you remember their loving face in that instant before death. Peace settles in and a tear falls from your eye, death is not what you fear and not why you cry. You cry for life’s greatest pain of compassion and love, which will never be felt as you enter the world above. You cry because you are human and this is all that you know, to feel and give back that which you are afraid to show. And as your spirit ascends to a loving god above, you think of the person you were once made of. By those who walked into your life, and made you through companionship so rife. Only to walk out with their heads held confidently high, for the person you were helped them to fly.