Between You and the Dead, It’s All Uneven
by Rhina P. Espaillat
Between you and the dead, it’s all uneven:
the more you draw them close to make them bless,
the more they turn away into their haven.
But drive them off, and they will not be driven,
for all your bitter justice and distress.
Between you and the dead lie charges proven
that keep them poised above the hell and heaven
of memory, where there is no redress.
The more they turn away into their leaving,
the more you bind them back; the more they leaven
your nights with stale repentances, the less
between you and the dead that could be loving.
They are beyond the look of faces graven
with sorrows of their making: they are grass,
their turning is no more than Earth revolving.
It is your cry you hear, you are the coven
chanting to raise them. You must let them pass.
You and the dead too long, too long have striven.
They will not turn to bless you unforgiven.
(Playing at Stillness, Truman State U. Press, Kirksville, 2005)