Academic journal article The Hudson Review

A California Requiem

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

A California Requiem

Article excerpt

I walked among the equidistant graves

New planted in the irrigated lawn.

The square, trim headstones quietly declared

The impotence of grief against the sun.

There were no outward signs of human loss.

No granite angel wept beside the lane.

No bending willow broke the once rough ground

Now graded to a geometric plane.

My blessed California, you are so wise.

You render death abstract, efficient, clean.

Your afterlife is only real estate,

And in his kingdom Death must stay unseen.

I would have left then. I had made my one

Obligatory visit to the dead.

But as I turned to go, I heard the voices,

Faint but insistent. This is what they said.

"Stay a moment longer, quiet stranger.

Your footsteps woke us from our lidded cells.

Now hear us whisper in the scorching wind,

Our single voice drawn from a thousand hells.

"We lived in places that we never knew.

We could not name the birds perched on our sill,

Or see the trees we cut down for our view.

What we possessed we always chose to kill.

"We claimed the earth but did not hear her claim,

And when we died, they laid us on her breast,

But she refuses us-until we earn

Forgiveness from the lives we dispossessed. …

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