For Hector Berlioz, on the 145th Anniversary of His Death

Au cimetière

Comes it then, to this?
To this pale polis choked thick
With tiny temples crumbling
Below the rumbling heedless overpass
Of living town above?
To tombs smeared gray with dust, and brown
With bony brittle memory
Of disregarded flowers?
Do I follow you, you maker of soul’s deep songs,
To only this?

“Connaissez-vous la blanche tomb?”
Not white, your tomb, nor gray–
It stands, a melancholy black,
As proud as you
Cut clear and clean in granite polished fine
As every line you wrote,
Incised upon its page.
For you the planted grave flowers grow
Flushed bright with life, as music lives,
Their life a gift from lives
Who love you, as I do.

But what good ground or root can be
That you be rooted here?
All harmony’s inverted so
And wrong sounds the dominant,
That you’re resolved to this.
“Que mon sort est amer!” to meet you not
In Paris’ flourished streets
Nor in Montmartre’s then yet-suburban lanes
Nor urging on your music to full triumphant birth
Brought forth in sounding flesh
Of bow and brass and wind.
Your offspring live.
Why do not you?

“Dans le ciel, sans m’attendre,
Il s’en retourna.”
Impatient,
You waited not so long to live
Till you could ask me
Might you die.
“Reviens, reviens, mon bien-aimé!”
You molder of mighty sounds,
Remold yourself from this twelve-decades’ mould
And live, and sing
As evermore you should!

But on this rest you hold, resuming
Never as before.
My heart’s weak beat conducts no life.
It can but give
A song– your own–
Sown marred with tardy tears,
These simple flowers,
And my own self, a wilted wreath
Hung up against the living tree
Whose roots reach down enfolding
Beloved bones and dust
That once could sing of you.

6/89
(For HB, who has no business being dead)

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