The Loss of Hope

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Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Thomas Gray

***

STROPHE

Who visits the graves today?
Those who tend the tombstones?
Grief is ever finite
Lasts as long as grievers breathe
As long as cystine charts them with life –
‘Til gone, & all who know them,
When stones drift in the weather.

Yesterwhile, not long ago,
I found myself verteux
As poets sometimes do
In early May when insects
Breed not yet, when foliage fragrant,
Thick leaves praising summer’s birth
Unbrumal in the morning.

As we wander’d Edina
Her modern-age virus
Rampant, wall to corner,
Hurling tenements higher
Daily, plastic gentrification
Makes me shake from my shoulders
Silica dusts of ‘progress.’

Where Warriston Road bends
Oer the Water of Leith
Scamble down & over –
This is a place for poets!
Forgotten corner of a city
Tumbledown cemetery
Pierc’d by searcing sunlight

Cenanthy beds of holly
Ferns & wild nettles swarm
Sun dapples through leafroof
Like sealskin polarascopes
Ivy explosions cloistering trunks
Birds oerwhelm the traffic’s blur
All is holy today!

Flesh absorbs the stench of death
Despite washing for days
Flatscrubbing soap to air
Corpses haul’d on Dalit backs
Parts lacking, lost somewhere by the rails
Thro’ dense, thorny undergrowth –
Death is tension releas’d!

***

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ANTISTROPHE

To smell to a turf of fresh earth is wholesome for the body;
No less are thoughst of mortality cordial to the soul
Thomas Fuller

Stones form bridges over streams
Stones face down in Earth’s dry dust
Stones lament six cruel deaths
Of siblings in infancy –
Wandering Warriston noting names-
Euphemia Schreuder
Somerville Macpherson

Lizzie Ogilvie Guililard
Faithful for sixty years
To sweet Richard Ramage
Shipbuilder from Leith
Alexander Wilson’s monolith
Contractor from Granton
With notions grandiose

I reach a sanctuary
Sent from the saints, & Delphi,
Spent in spirit & stone
Handsome saxicavous shrine
Where anchor & star-pointed crown
Banner tombs to sisterhood
The Hopes are buried here!

Fly imagination!
From prolusion’s catalyst!
Play the stage assembling
Charles Hope & Lady Charlotte
Your daughters sleep indebted to thee
Who gave them names insignate
Life’s throwstring threads to lead

Beyond the age of breathing
Above the putrilage
Jane Melville, Louisa
Sophia, Octavia,
Prepenicillian princesses
Stone-etched in fixidity
Eight decades broaches worn.

Libitina enters space
Priestesses at her hem-line
Perfect moment’s poetry,
‘Excuse me, please, young ladies,
Have you seen how long these sisters lived,
‘My’ they replied, ‘surprising
For such unhealthy times.’

***

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EPODE

And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffl’d roar
No harm from him can come to me
On oceans or on shore
John Greenleaf Whittier

Forgotten songs once lauded
Lamented Lizzie Boyle –
Those who sang her praises
Were clean gone long ago –
Made Hope, not by consanguinity
But conjugal chargee
The sisters’ brother, James

My notebook brushes nettles
Clearing the headstone’s face
Where ‘Faithful unto Death’
His sostenuto daughters
Read Elizabeth Montgomerie
& Charlotte Mary,
Names outdug from moss-trench

Another resquiescat
David Boyle, bright advocate
Born Eighteen Thirty-Three,
Died sixty-three years later;
His wife, Letitia, four days after
But down in Brighthelmstone
Mysteries uprisal!

Was it death by broken heart
Or grimy suicide
She was in her fifties
Cancer or coincidence?
Whatever the occurrence this verse
Returns distant spirits
From dyspathy to love!

With Christ which is far better
Three young brothers endure
Briny sleeps eternal
Gallivanting gallivats,
Augustus, James Arthur, John Loius
Five year course of funerals
Not one made twenty three

Lives cleft in rock of ages
How father must have wept
& wail’d on Eden’s loss
Yon Victorian facades
Who remembers now the loss of Hope
Drown’d at sea… Drown’d off
Lagos

Condolences Typhoean!

Damian Beeson Bullen

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