Not Like That by Adrienne Rich

It’s so pure in the cemetery.

The children love to play up here.

It’s a little town, a game of blocks,

a village packed in a box,

a pre-war German toy.

The turf is a bedroom carpet:

heal-all, strawberry flower

and hillocks of moss.

To come and sit here forever,

a cup of tea on one’s lap

and one’s eyes closed lightly, lightly,

perfectly still

in a nineteenth-century sleep!

it seems so normal to die.

Nobody sleeps here, children.

The little beds of white wrought iron

and the tall, kind, faceless nurse

are somewhere else, in a hospital

or the dreams of prisoners of war.

The drawers of this trunk are empty,

not even a snapshot

curls in a corner.

In Pullmans of childhood we lay

enthralled behind dark-green curtains,

and a little lamp burned blue

all night, for us. The day

was a dream too, even the oatmeal

under its silver lid, dream-cereal

spooned out in forests of spruce

skirting the green-black gorges,

thick woods of sleep, half prickle,

half lakes of fern.

To stay here forever

is not like that, nor even

simply to lie quite still,

the warm trickle of dream

staining the thick quiet

The drawers of this trunk are empty.

They are all out of sleep up here.


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