From “Evelyn Ray”

I often think of Evelyn Ray.
What did she do, what did she say?
Did she ever chance to pass that way?

I remember it as a lovely spot
Where a cat-bird sang. When he heard the shot.
Did he fly away? I have quite forgot.

When I went there last, he was singing again 
Through a little fleeting, misty rain,
And pine-cones lay where they had lain.

This is the tale as I heard it when 
I was young from a man who was threescore and ten.
A lady of clay and two stone men.

A pretty problem is here, no doubt,
If you have a fancy to work it out:
What happens to stone when clay is about?

Muse upon it as long as you will,
I think myself it will baffle your skill.
And your answer will be what mine is—nil.

But every sunny Summer’s day 
I am teased with the thought of Evelyn Ray, 
Poor little image of painted clay.
And Heigh-o! I say.
What if there be a judgment-day?

What if all religions be true,
And Gabriel’s trumpet blow for you 
And blow for them—what will you do?

Evelyn Ray, will you rise alone?
Or will your lovers of dull grey stone 
Pace beside you through the wan

Twilight of that bitter day
To be judged as stone and judged as clay.
And no one to say the judgment nay?

Better be nothing, Evelyn Ray,
A handful of buttercups that sway 
In the wind for a children’s holiday.

For earth to earth is the best we know,
Where the good blind worms push to and fro
Turning us into the seeds which grow,

And lovers and ladies are dead indeed,
Lost in the sap of a flower seed.
Is this, think you, a sorry creed?

Well, be it so, for the world is wide 
And opinions jostle on every side.
What has always hidden will always hide.

And every year when the fields are high 
With oat grass, and red top, and timothy,
I know that a creed is the shell of a lie.

Peace be with you, Evelyn Ray,
And to your lovers, if so it may,
For earth made stone and earth made clay.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.