Because I could not stop for Death (479)

- 1830-1886

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring – 
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – 
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity – 

I measure every Grief I meet (561)

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes – 
I wonder if It weighs like Mine – 
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long – 
Or did it just begin – 
I could not tell the Date of Mine – 
It feels so old a pain – 

I wonder if it hurts to live – 
And if They have to try – 
And whether – could They choose between – 
It would not be – to die – 

I note that Some – gone patient long – 
At length, renew their smile –  
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil – 

I wonder if when Years have piled –  
Some Thousands – on the Harm –  
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –  

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve – 
Enlightened to a larger Pain –  
In Contrast with the Love –  

The Grieved – are many – I am told –  
There is the various Cause –  
Death – is but one – and comes but once –  
And only nails the eyes –  

There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –  
A sort they call "Despair" –  
There's Banishment from native Eyes – 
In sight of Native Air –  

And though I may not guess the kind –  
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –  

To note the fashions – of the Cross –  
And how they're mostly worn –  
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own – 

The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman (1487)

The Savior must have been
A docile Gentleman—
To come so far so cold a Day
For little Fellowmen—

The Road to Bethlehem
Since He and I were Boys
Was leveled, but for that 'twould be
A rugged Billion Miles—

A Man may make a Remark (952)

A Man may make a Remark -
In itself - a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature - lain -

Let us divide - with skill -
Let us discourse - with care -
Powder exists in Charcoal -
Before it exists in Fire -

Related Poems

Immortality

I feel like Emily Dickinson did, running her pale finger over each blade of grass, then caressing each root in the depths of the earth's primeval dirt, each tip tickling heaven's soft underbelly. I feel like Emily alone in her room, her hands folded neatly in her lap, waiting forever for one of those two daguerreotypes to embalm her precious soul.
        At my most attuned, the present is a pair of wings stretching forever in all directions, flapping calmly, calmly flapping. But as soon as I notice how happy I am, how close to the sun, there I go plummeting into the background of the same damn painting as ever.
        If I could reach my hand out to you now, would you take it? How do you think it would feel? Warm and soft and certain? Or like Emily's: clammy and brittle as hardened paste? Is that not how you imagine her hands? Look again—they were like that, otherwise she could never, would never, have written those poems.
 

About this poem:
"This poem comes from a series of prose poems about 'big ideas' written during a period when I was having trouble writing. To get the juices flowing again, I thought I'd try starting with titles, with big abstract concepts, and see where they led. They ended up leading to a handful of pieces like this, which will be published in a chapbook from Omnidawn later this year."

Craig Morgan Teicher

Life and Death

                                    Life

I saw the candle brightly burning in the room! 
The fringed curtains gracefully draped back, 
The windows, crystal clear! 
Upon the generous hearth
Quick Wit and bubbling Laughter
    Flashed and danced
    Sparkled and pranced,
And music to the glowing scene lent cheer.
It was a gracious sight, 
So full of life, of love, of light! 

                                    Death 

Then suddenly I saw a cloud of gloom
Take form within the room:
A blue-grey mist obscured the window-panes
And silent fell the rout!
Then from the shadows came the Dreaded Shape,—
The candle flickered out!

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.