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Poem by Robert Lee Frost


Home Burial


He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: What is it you see
From up there always -- for I want to know.
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: What is it you see?
Mounting until she cowered under him.
I will find out now -- you must tell me, dear.
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldnt see,
Blind creature; and a while he didnt see.
But at last he murmured, Oh and again, Oh.
What is it -- what? she said.
Just that I see.
You dont, she challenged. Tell me what it is.
The wonder is I didnt see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it -- thats the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We havent to mind those.
But I understand: it is not the stones,
But the childs mound --
Dont, dont, dont, dont, she cried.
She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the banister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,
He said twice over before he knew himself:
Cant a man speak of his own child hes lost?
Not you! Oh, wheres my hat? Oh, I dont need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.
I dont know rightly whether any man can.
Amy! Dont go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I wont come down the stairs.
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
Theres something I should like to ask you, dear.
You dont know how to ask it.
Help me, then.
Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.
My words are nearly always an offence.
I dont know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught
I should suppose. I cant say I see how,
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk. We could have some arrangement
By which Id bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special youre a-mind to name.
Though I dont like such things twixt those that love.
Two that dont love cant live together without them.
But two that do cant live together with them.
She moved the latch a little. Dont -- dont go.
Dont carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if its something human.
Let me into your grief. Im not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother-loss of a first child
So inconsolably- in the face of love.
Youd think his memory might be satisfied --
There you go sneering now!
Im not, Im not!
You make me angry. Ill come down to you.
God, what a woman! And its come to this,
A man cant speak of his own child thats dead.
You cant because you dont know how.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand--how could you?--his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man? I didnt know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I dont know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own babys grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.
I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
Im cursed. God, if I dont believe Im cursed.
I can repeat the very words you were saying ,
Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlour?
You couldnt care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretence of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the worlds evil. I wont have grief so
If I can change it. Oh, I wont, I wont
There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You wont go now. Youre crying. Close the door.
The hearts gone out of it: why keep it up?
Amyl Theres someone coming down the road!
You --oh, you think the talk is all. I must go-
Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you --
If--you -- do! She was opening the door wider.
Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
Ill follow and bring you back by force. I will! --



Robert Lee Frost


Robert Lee Frost's other poems:
  1. The Vantage Point
  2. Wild Grapes
  3. On Going Unnoticed
  4. Hyla Brook
  5. The Self-Seeker


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