The Collected Poems of Dora Sigerson Shorter/The Suicide's Grave
THE SUICIDE'S GRAVE
This is the scene of a man's despair, and a soul's release
From the difficult traits of the flesh; so, it seeking peace,
A shot rang out in the night; death's doors were wide;
And you stood alone, a stranger, and saw inside.
Coward flesh, brave soul, which was it? One feared the world.
The pity of men, or their scorn; yet carelessly hurled
All on the balance of Chance for a state unknown;
Fled the laughter of men for the anger of God—alone.
Perhaps when the hot blood streamed on the daisied sod,
Poor soul, you were likened to Cain, and you fled from God;
Men say you fought hard for your life, when the deed was done;
But your body would rise no more 'neath this world's sun.
I'd choose—should I do the act—such a night as this,
When the sea throws up white arms for the wild wind's kiss;
When the waves shake the shuddering shore with their foamy jaws;
Tear the strand, till slipping pebbles shriek through their claws.
The sky is loud with the storm; not a bird dare span
From here to the mist; beasts are silent; yet for a man,
For a soul springing naked to meet its judge, a night
That were as a brother to this poor spirit's long flight,
But he had chosen, they tell me, a dusk so fair
One almost thought there were not such another—there.
The air was full of the perfume of pines, and the sweet
Sleepy chirp of birds, long the lush soft grass at his feet.
They say there was dancing too in a house close by,
That they heard the shot just thinking wild birds must die.
They supped and laughed, went singing the long night through,
And they danced unknowing the dance of death with you.
What did you hear when you opened the doors of death?
Was it the sob of a thrush, or a slow sweet breath
Of the perfumed air that blew through the doors with you,
That you fought so hard to regain the world you knew?
Or was it a woman's cry that, shrieking into the gloom.
Like a hand that closed on your soul, clutching it from its doom?
Was it a mother's call, or the touch of a baby's kiss,
That followed your desperate soul down the black abyss?
What did you see—as you stood on the other side—
A strange shy soul amongst souls, did you seek to hide
From the ghosts that were, who judged you upon your way,
Reckoned your sins against theirs for the judgment day?
You feared the world, the pity of men or their scorn,
The movements of fate and the sorrows for which you were born.
Men's laughter, men's speech, their judging, what was it to this
Where the eyes of the dead proclaim you have done amiss?
Not peace did you gain, perhaps, nor the rest you had planned,
'Neath the horrible countless eyes that you could not withstand?
Or was it, God looked from His throne in a moment's disdain,
And you shrieked for a trial once more in the height of your pain?
Perhaps—but who knows?—when you struggled so hard for life's breath,
You saw nothing passing the grave except silence and death;
You lay shut in by the four day walls of your cell.
There the live soul locked up in the stiff dead body's shell.
Dead, dead and coffin'd, buried beneath the day,
And still the living soul caged in to wait decay,
For ever alone in night of unlifting gloom
There to think, and think, and think, in the silent tomb.
Or was it in death's cold land there was no perfume
Of the scented flowers, or lilt of a bird's gay tune;
No sea there, or no cool of a wind's fresh breath.
No woods, no plains, no dreams, and alas! no death?
Was there no life there that man's brain could understand?
No past, no future, hopes to come, in that strange land?
No human love, no sleep, no day, no night,
But ever eternal living in eternal light?
Perhaps the soul thus springing to fill its grave,
Found all the peace and happiness that it could crave;
All it had lost alone was that poor body's part
Which naught but grey corruption saw for its chart.
Ah well! for us there ended all one man's life with this—
A shot, a cry, a struggle, and a fainting woman's kiss;
Life's blood let 'mid the grasses—and all a world was lost,
And no one may ever know how he paid the cost.
He is lost in the crowd of the dead, in the night-time of death,
A name on a stone left to tell that he ever drew breath.
So desperate body die there, with your soul's long release,
And, unhappy spirit, God grant you Eternity's peace!