A Democratic Vista
by Fred Marchant
in memoriam: Saul Bellow
Here Lyeth the Body of Ruth Carter
Puritan skeletons on either side of her stone,
real bones, real stone, the ribs curved
on either side, with visible pelvic blades,
and a long vertical lineation of legs,
chiseled shoulder bones and arms.
One of the skeletons faces us,
the other turns away in the direction
of an ambulance sirening slowly through
traffic, a desolate unsung sound
on a warm spring day, the sun fully affirming.
Why a blue plastic bag floating between
the rows of headstones? Why does it stop with me?
Why a blue sky floating above us as well?
The buildings around stand like guardians,
though I know they donít protect anything.
I wonder if in the snow and sleet if they saw
how the drifts found their way in here.
And if that manóthe kind no one would trustó
who stands at the gate with his cup,
who eyes me without warmth, or anger, was there.
A Second Day, and all I wish for
is that the grass would grow back quickly.
There is too much bareness,
and there is always too little too late too often.
A child asks me why all the stones face the same way.
I suppose they began one way, and those that followed just got in line.
Or I suppose there may be a starry orientation to this,
a facing of morning, or an angle of waiting.
I donít have any answers about the bareness
or why the stones bend and tip into low, oblique angles.
I think it must be about the space a body leaves behind,
how the stones cannot stop themselves from bowing.
since you have died.
You would attach nothing to the number.
You would make sure none of us would.
So I will count it up this way:
this is the day after the day after the day.
Neither the earth nor sky has even begun to notice.
You once said that if words would pay close enough attention
to the body, then the soul would follow.
Here lyeth the body.
Copyright © 2008 by Fred Marchant.
This poem is part of The Looking House, forthcoming from Graywolf Press, Spring 2009.