Black high heel on grass with gravestone in background

Awakened, two figures rise,
drift silently in a dim aisle between
all the empty buried coffins
in closeness like warmth.

the long, loose flow of white garments,
bright in the dusk,
falling weighty from heads and shoulders,
diaphanous, floating above.

Faces shimmer, flicker.
Do expressions change or is it
gauze moving.

A slow exchange,
rushing, whirling, drowning
sound in the closeness
seems to form words.

The deeper voice:
"Pull them down. Destroy them."

A reply, higher-pitched:
"They have not come here to offend
but to arrange their own crises."

"I feel their fear."

"It will pass."

Above, bright, clear air of a
summer afternoon breathes
in dark cypresses and across headstones,
cooling the heads and faces
of walkers entering this place
of stillness.

Voices below do not carry above
ā€” unless that was not the breeze
whispering in the grass.

A young woman wobbles
on her thin, four-inch heels,
surprised, not having known
the points sink in soft earth.

The one in cassock, surplice, and stole
raises a hand, entrusting
"Earth to earth."
Missing the point.

She stands.
The heel-points slowly
penetrate earth.
Through her tears a headstone
seems to bear her name.
Not today, though.

She drops a rose onto the coffin,

The fragrance and her words drift
into the closeness below.

"She's saying that line of
William's: 'a and strange.'"
Turning to face each other,
where they stand,
they seem to laugh.

Footfalls above.
The walkers depart, calm
in heaviness of resignation,

Leaving the two cypresses
to flame motionless.

Below, the partners glide
in the home they love,
where they belong.

Mated, mentor to mentor,
one desire, one pleasure ā€”
to be left in long repose
in timeless refuge
where they shepherd.

In the fresh earth
on the new coffin the two
lie down side by side,
no longer speaking.
In wakeful sleep,
each cherishing the companion
who remains silent.

On upturned faces veils gather,
folding what is needful
for this journey.
Under the settling garments,
thick drape and filmy sheer,

Do hearts beat, breaths stir,
or is that empty vibration.

Do fingertips touch?

No matter.
Souls entwine.


Catherine says of Heathcliff, "Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same. I shall take him with me." (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

So Heathcliff unearths her grave and breaks open her coffin to allow their cheeks to touch when he is buried beside her.

What a surprise to me to see those parallels in this poem, when I hadn't read Wuthering Heights since high school. I devoured it after writing the poem.

Likewise my reading Lawrence Durrell's Prospero's Cell and Dorothy Carrington's The Dream Hunters of Corsica came after this poem's origination, but both informed later drafts.

Ted Kooser visits a graveyard in his Pulitzer-winner, Delights and Shadows, and Robert Frost meditates "In a Disused Graveyard." They saw something different than I did, though I still took an idea from each of them.