Ancient maples mingle over us, leaves
the color of pomegranates.
The days are warm with honey light,
but the last two nights have finished
every garden in the village.

The provident have left green tomatoes
to ripen on newspaper in the darkness of sheds.
The peppers were already in.
Now there will be no more corn.

I let myself through the wrought iron gate
of the graveyard, and—meaning to exclude
the dog—I close it after me. But he runs
to the other end, and jumps the stone
wall overlooking Elbow Pond.

Someone’s been working here. The broken
stones are upright, the fissures
mortared crudely. Small fading flags
lean beside the stones of veterans.

Here Samuel Smith lay down at last
with his three wives, all named Susan.
I had to see it for myself. They died
in their sixties, one outliving him.
So why do I feel indignant? He suffered.
Love, and the Smiths’ peculiar fame
“to nothingness do sink.” And further on
the Sleepers live up to their name.

The dog cocks his leg on a stone.
But animals do not mock, and the dead
may be glad to have life breaking in.

The sun drops low over the pond.
Long shadows move out from the stones,
and a chill rises from the moss,
prompt as a deacon. And at Keats’s grave
in the Protestant cemetery in Rome
it is already night,
and wild cats are stalking in the moat.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 6 Number 7, on page 45
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