Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
When I Heard You Were Dead
By Wilton Agnew Barrett
 
WHEN I heard you were dead,
I had little more than a startled word to give;
We had been too long apart,
And all the years I had been cold to you.
But the pity and pain of your leave-taking filled me with slow resentment.        5
 
Once I would have cared to make a song
About a flower you gave me—
An old rose shut in a book that is lost.
 
I was cruel to you,
And you had nothing better from the rest of the world;        10
That is what made me angry.
 
Well, we can love the dead in our own way
And not hurt them;
We can be very tender, knowing well
They will not come back to us.        15
 
I have thoughts for you now,
I have words of bereavement;
I see how lovely and rare you were
And cry out after you.
 
Where are you now, whom I played with on the sands when we both were young?        20
I remember your girl’s body stocky and strong,
Your little hard hand-clasp,
Your truthful eyes,
Your corn-pale dancing hair
Growing low on your small forehead.        25
I remember you, wet from the surf, catching ball like a rough boy.
 
I know death has you;
That very likely you were glad to die,
Going out lonely and in bitterness,
With your dreams all crunched to black dust …        30
Too strong for life, too honest, too friendly and too tender.
 
I hope, if the grave has not conspired to hold you,
You have forgotten about all that.
I hope, if I could come to an old sea-beach white and sunny,
Where spirits immortally human played,        35
I would find you there, O gray eyes—the laughing comrade of boys!
 
 
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