died June 1916
Under your illkempt yellow roses,
Delia, today you are younger
Than your son. Two and a half decades –
The family monument sagged askew,
And he overtook you for half-a-life.
On the other side of the country,
Near the willows by the slow river,
Deep in the earth, the white ribs retain
The curve of your fervent, careful breast;
The fine skull, the ardor of your brain.
And in the fingers the memory
Of Chopin études, and in the feet
Slow waltzes and champagne twosteps sleep.
And the white full moon of midsummer,
That you watched awake all that last night,
Watches history fill the deserts
And oceans with corpses once again;
And looks in the east window at me,
As I move past you to middle age
And knowledge past your agony and waste.
Kenneth Rexroth, "Delia Rexroth (died June 1916)" from The Collected Shorter Poems. Copyright © 1944 by Kenneth Rexroth. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: The Collected Shorter Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2003)