Longfellow

“At every gust the dead leaves fall”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Rainy Day”

Two close centuries of stone and cloth and paper
chalked your cheeks and carved your hands to broken.
You are not a monument any more, now —
more like a forest

moving shadows under simple trees, dark rivulets
mottling snow fading in this warm gray winter,
melting the centuries you didn’t know, Henry Longfellow —
wait — I can hear you —

a low and earnest voice, wind in fir trees, burning
through this room, where you wrote your saddest poem,
through this house, where the farm and family built you.
Your sister Ann’s portrait

stumbles, eyes black as night behind a candle.
The marble urn in your red brick yard has fallen,
knocked down in the emptiness of the fountain.
Cries of the seagulls

reach through walls to find you again, pour down
the carrying knowledge that grew your branching gardens —
and tell me which old words, which new wings, will carry
you from this courtyard.

COMMISSIONED BY THE MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
FOR LONGFELLOW’S 200TH BIRTHDAY

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