With their harsh leaves old rhododendrons fill 
The crevices in grave plots' broken stones.
The bees renew the blossoms they destroy,
While in the burning air the pines rise still,
Commemorating long forgotten biers.
Their roots replace the semblance of these bones.

The weight of cool, of imperceptible dust
That came from nothing and to nothing came
Is light within the earth and on the air.
The change that so renews itself is just.
The enormous, sundry platitude of death
Is for these bones, bees, trees, and leaves the same.

And splayed upon the ground and through the trees
The mountains' shadow fills and cools the air,
Smoothing the shape of headstones to the earth.
The rhododendrons suffer with the bees
Whose struggles loose ripe petals to the earth,
The heaviest burden it shall ever bear.

Our hard earned knowledge fits us for such sleep.
Although the spring must come, it passes too
To form the burden suffered for what comes.
Whatever we would give our souls to keep
Is merely part of what we call the soul;
What we of time would threaten to undo

All time in its slow scrutiny has done.
For on the grass that starts about the feet
The body's shadow turns, to shape in time,
Soon grown preponderant with creeping shade,
The final shadow that is turn of earth;
And what seems won paid for as in defeat.

From Collected Poems by Edgar Bowers, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random Houe, Inc.  Copyright © 1997 Edgar Bowers. Used with permission.

Before he wrote a poem, he learned the measure
That living in the future gives a farm--
Propinquity of mules and cows, the charmed
Insouciance of hens, the fellowship,
At dawn, of seed-time and of harvest-time.
But when high noon gave way to evening, and
The fences lay, bent shadows, on the crops
And pastures to the yellowing trees, he felt
The presences he felt when, over rocks,
Through pools and where it wears the bank, the stream
Ran bright and dark at once, itself its shadow;
And suffered, in all he knew, the antagonists
Related in the Bible, in himself
And every new condition from the beginning,
As in the autumn leaf and summer prime.
Therefore he chose to live the only game
Worthy of repetition, in the likeness
Of someone like himself, a race of which
He was the changing distances and ground,
The runners, and the goal that runs away
Forever into time; or like two players
At odds in white and black, their dignities
Triumphs refused or losses unredeemed.
For the one, that it be ever of the pure
Intention that he witnessed in the high
Stained windows of King's Chapel--ancestral stories,
The old above the new, like pages shining
From an essential book--he taught his mind
To imitate the meditation, sovereign
In verse and prose, of those who shared with him
Intelligence of beauty, good, and truth
As one, unchanging and unchangeable,
Disinterested excitement through a sentence
Their joy and passion. For the other, as
A venturer asleep, he went among
The voiceless and unvisionary many--
Like one who offers blood to know his fate
Or hold his twin again--deep in the midnight
Baths of New Orleans, on its plural beds
And on the secret banks beside its river,
The many who, anonymous as he was,
Uncannily resembled him, appearing
Immortal in a finitude of mirrors.

But when the sudden force of the disease
Tossed him, in a new garment, on the bed
Where he had wakened, mornings, as a child--
Despised by all the neighbors, helpless, blind
And vulnerable to every life, he listened
Intensely to the roosters, mules and cows
As well as to the voices of the desk,
The chair, the books and pictures, pastures and fields,
The tree of every season, the age of seas
And, on its surge, the age of galaxies,
The bells within the spires of Cambridge, bodies
And faces revealed or hidden in the flow,
All that we knew or could imagine joined
Together in the sound the stream flows through
As witness of itself in every change,
Each trusting in its continuities,
All turning in a final radiant shell.
Then, on his darkened eye, he saw himself
A compact disk awhirl, played by the light
He came from and was ready to reenter,
But not before he chose the way to go.
And so it was, before his death, he spoke
The poem that is his best, the final letter
To take to that old country as a passport.

From Collected Poems by Edgar Bowers, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.  Copyright © 1997 Edgar Bowers. Used with permission.

Beauty is the marking-time, the stationary vibration, the feigned ecstasy of an arrested impulse unable to reach its natural end.

Mana Aboda, whose bent form
The sky in archèd circle is,
Seems ever for an unknown grief to mourn.
Yet on a day I heard her cry:
'I weary of the roses and the singing poets—
Josephs all, not tall enough to try.'

This poem is in the public domain.

Immortal?... No,
they cannot be, these people,
nor I.

Tired faces,
eyes that have never seen the world,
bodies that have never lived in air,
lips that have never minted speech,
they are the clipped and garbled,
blocking the highway.
They swarm and eddy
between the banks of glowing shops
towards the red meat,
the potherbs,
the cheapjacks,
or surge in
before the swift rush
of the clanging trams,—
pitiful, ugly, mean,

In a wood,
watching the shadow of a bird
leap from frond to frond of bracken,
I am immortal.

But these?

This poem is in the public domain.