Sunday, November 11, 2012

Westhampton Cemetery founded 1795, Long Island Poem for Sunday

Westhampton Cemetery
founded 1795

     for Jim and Tanya
Philip Appleman

No place for elegies, in these stern
stones, bleached
by the misty light that haloes gulls
and weathers the gray shingles
of the Hamptons—no elegies, but grace:
     Blessed are the dead
     which die in the Lord: my flesh
     will rest in hope.
No place for elegies in this austere
devotion to joy, the faith
of the departed:
     They do not die nor lose
     their mortal sympathy,
     nor change to us, although
     they change.
No elegies for Mehitable, wife
of Enoch Jagger, died
1799 in the twenty-fifth
year of her age;
for Warren Goodall, drowned at Fire Island,
for Jennie McCue, died 1871,
aged three years, nine days—no
elegies, but grace:
     Precious in the sight of the Lord
     is the death of His Saints: we sorrow not
     as those which have no hope.
But for the backs that wearied out
these scars in the pale earth,
and for sailors at the aching capstans,
for fishermen scanning
the ashy sky—elegies,
yes, for all
of these—for bonneted girls
stooping till sundown in the itch
of potatao fields, new widows walking their roofs
for the overdue whalers,
maids in the faded Hamptons
staring at hope chests—elegies,
chiseled in mossy stone:
     From sorrow, toil and pain
     and sin we shall be free.
This misty light is an elegy
for the living:
bleaching our blood to water,
scaling our bone to chalk,
fading every morning song
to the minor of farewell.

'Westhampton Cemetery' by Philip Appleman from the 1986 'Long Island Poets' collection by The Permanent Press in Sag Harbor. Reprinted with with publisher's permission.
'Long Island Poets' can be purchased from The Permanent Press.

Previous Long Island Poem for Sunday - A Flowering Twig, Long Island Poem for Sunday

No comments:

Post a Comment