new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

The Dead Folk
I walked among the dead folk, on a mad autumn day,
The gold leaves tearing round me, rifled treasure flung away.
"They’re quiet here," I thought. "They’ll tell what I could do with life —
Gertrude, Gratian, Patrick, and Keziah, his wife."

I thought, "You’ll teach my heart to do the ordered things it's told,
Little, dear Kitilda, who was two years, four months old."
But her snowdrops shook their skirts out, and I heard a baby cry
For the long-forgotten whispering of her lullaby.

I walked among the dead folk, and dusk pined through the trees.
A rose and I, none other, bent our hearts to these.
And the white rose-petals scattered in a snowstorm to the grass —
For the dead remember perfumes — they hear the steps that pass.

I hoped perhaps they’d gift me with a wraith of quietude —
I brought them everlastings; rain-lashed and still I stood.
But Ann and Pierce would ask me if their lads had come to harm,
If the bright gorse shone to mock them, on Wild Apples Farm.

One word I spoke of loving. Robert was twenty-four
When Life said she didn’t want him for her lover any more.
He remembers yellowing grasses, and the unseen shadowed breast
Of the silver girl, who flew him like a wild swan to the nest.

Don’t walk among the dead folk, if you’re spent with hurt or shame.
Their long, faint cry burns upwards like a crocus-flame,
And they’re always dreaming firelight, and the ways of man and wife,
For you needn’t think the dead folk will have done with Life.



Last updated 24 September, 2003