The morning slipping past the white
Of curtains is a girl, slender
As April in a wistful light,
With naive air, unsure, tender,
Offering herself like daffodils
To cruelty from belated snow.
A sudden bird quells doubt with trills
Of wellspring love. Our girl will grow.
—Robert Greer Cohn
Beneath the snow lie fallen leaves,
dead grass below, then graves.
Our lives begin as green as spring
but we must learn what winters bring.
All life’s layers lie upon
one another and this stone.
At school from a pulpit niched
into the wall the Martyrology was read
to boys awaiting lunch, and while they ate
the images of racks and wheels and fire
prepared them for the long digestion
of truths for which they hoped to die.
Waiters brought on trays the heads
of witnesses, among the tables mortal
boys moved toward their later lunch.
All that was half a century since.
How many now lie dead of natural causes,
disease, jammed hearts, or accident,
of anything but Dioclitean cruelty?