November 1, 2012

"November always seemed to me the Norway of the year."-   Emily Dickinson

Bidden or not, November has arrived.  Today is All Saints' Day, where traditionally families visit family graves.  Here's a picture from the First Burying Ground of the Settlers in Newburyport, MA.  My husband and mother and I visited it two years ago, hoping to find the grave of our first American ancestor, Giles Badger, who arrived on the Mary and John in 1632, and was one of the original settlers of Newburyport.  The headstones were so old we couldn't read most of them, but it was a very interesting stroll around this 'fine and private place'.   I discovered a new poet while working on today's blog, Frances Bellerby, an English poet born in 1899.  Somehow using a poem by an Englishwoman about All Saints' Day seems appropriate in honor of these brave and adventurous pilgrims of long ago. 


I always love the details found on really old headstones...note the ancient skull faces and angel wings!

And here was a surprise...the headstone of Newburyport's first witch, Elizabeth Morse, accused of witchcraft a dozen years before the Salem witch trial hysteria.  Her headstone is next to her husband's, but her body was buried outside the cemetery fence.

All Soul's Day
Frances Bellerby

Let's go our old way
by the stream, and kick the leaves
as we always did, to make
the rhythm of breaking waves.
This day draws no breath –
shows no colour anywhere
except for the leaves - in their death
brilliant as never before.
Yellow of Brimstone Butterfly,
brown of Oak Eggar Moth –
you'd say. And I'd be wondering why
a summer never seems lost
if two have been together
witnessing the variousness of light,
and the same two in lustreless November
enter the year's night…
The slow-worm stream - how still!
Above that spider's unguarded door,
look – dull pearls…Time's full,
brimming, can hold no more.
Next moment (we well know,
my darling, you and I)
what the small day cannot hold
must spill into eternity.
So perhaps we should move cat-soft
meanwhile, and leave everything unsaid,
until no shadow of risk can be left
of disturbing the scatheless dead.
Ah, but you were always leaf-light.
And you so seldom talk
as we go. But there at my side
through the bright leaves you walk.
And yet – touch my hand
that I may be quite without fear,
for it seems as if a mist descends,
and the leaves where you walk do not stir.

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