When a man dies
We find that suddenly there’s time to praise him.
Then pardon his surprise
If, seeing the pinnacles to which we raise him,

Or, stunned to hear
Tongues dumb till now pronounce him good and great,
He gropes – ‘I’d no idea…
I might have stayed…but now, it’s a bit late.’

What iron vice
Lockjaws us silent till death do us part?
What breath of Arctic ice
Congeals the Gulf Stream of a generous heart?

Safe on his bier
Our man reaps all a lifetime’s panegyric,
But while he’s with us here –
Sharp eye, tight lip, assessment less than Iyric.

Will God or man
Cut the self-guarding cancers that alarm us
Until we dare and can
Praise living men, with power to top and harm us?

Then would we see
Men having nothing making many rich,
Setting the prisoners free –
See statues leap from pedestal and niche

In marble joy
Running unbound among the startled crowds
And the winged horse and boy
In supersonic bronze soar to the clouds.


Poems of the Spirit