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Veterans' Cemetery


The ceremonies of the day have ceased,

Abandoned to the ragged crow's parade.

The flags unravel in the caterpillar's feast.

The wreaths collapse onto the stones they shade.


How quietly doves gather by the gate

Like souls who have no heaven and no hell.

The patient grass reclaims its lost estate

Where one stone angel stands as sentinel.


The voices whispering in the burning leaves,

Faint and inhuman, what can they desire

When every season feeds upon the past,

And summer's green ignites the autumn's fire?


The afternoon's a single thread of light

Sewn through the tatters of a leafless willow,

As one by one the branches fade from sight,

And time curls up like paper turning yellow.


                                           Dana Gioia



From The Gods of Winter, Graywolf Press,

1991. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Background by
Lewis Eaton

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