In the immediate vicinity of death, the mind enters on an unaccustomed order
of sensations, a region untrodden before, from which few,very few travelers
have returned…Here…the pilgrim pursues his course alone, and is lost to our eye.
—————————–—Bishop George Burgess, 1850
I have watched the horse, the roan, turned loose, graze side by side
with the doe.
I don’t believe you have a grave, nor any pine box.
And even now the wind carries you where you are to go.
The books on the shelves know what they know.
Apples, too tart for the tongue, which the horse, roan,
and the doe, pluck from the branches.
The soul weighs twenty-six grams. I could hold you in my palm.
It’s no wonder you float in and out of dream. It’s how you arrive
pale as wind, as I’m pulling flakes of hay off a bale,
when I open the window of the barn.
No footsteps to listen for. The chair, appearing to be empty,
is not. Though unable to see you, something in me knows
you’ve entered the room, you’ve sat down.
How is it possible you’ve returned?
I turn and find you in the rain, and the rain
falls through you.
And the rain at last broken, and the moon
raising itself to the window.
Fifty years — a hundred — is nothing to you now.
Big-leaf maples let go their leaves, and the ghosts of ravens,
and the ferry’s horn, five times, sounds through the fog.
On both sides of your death the snow turned the days soundless.
The same snow that took the sorrel gelding after forty years.
There was nothing we could do but to bury him beneath the snow.
The grave a scar, scraped down to the earth.
I don’t believe there is a grave for you.
And you wait like a chalice in the rain, and move between worlds.
The one you were tied to, and ached to leave,
the one you’d had a glimpse of and ached to arrive.
I have seen you now in darkness;
you are all shooting stars and weaving air.
You have no voice but the words you place into my mind.
While others believe you gone, believe you ash, wind,
I find you in the garden, autumn,
with the spirits of peonies, of lilacs, and roses.
Hands open, you arrived, holding nothing in your palms.
Now in darkness, I see, as minute stars circle in your face.
“A region untrodden…” Rev. George Burgess, 1850