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The Funeral

ISSUE:  Autumn 1936

Four hundred dollars beat for him Like a still heart within the house,
Midway the wall whereon a clock Made nightly music for the mouse.
Their sound was softer than the clang Of any hour that steel could strike;
Or the tick, tick, so crisp and clear,
His wife and he ignored alike.
They listened well, and something said Long years ago was not forgot;
So he remembered on the day When he was there and she was not.
Before the after-time of tears,
And with his neighbors close around,
He tapped the wall and took it out—
The gold to put her in the ground.
It was not wise, with him so old;
He would be needing fire and bread.
But he was stubborner than stone;
It is to bury her, be said.
There were a hundred shining cars;
High candles dripped his wealth away;
With silver-shouldered boys and priests To mumble what no man can say.
There were the motors coughing off,
Then he alone in misty March;
With none to see him stop the clock And make a cold and silent search For something utterly of price,
For something worthy to conceal.
But there was nothing like a heart.
And still his fingers, slow to feel,
Went on and on, by hook and door,
To where the shadows soothed his eyes;
And where a sudden twisted thought Began to smile in him and rise.
He regained the middle room.
The clock was tickless on the shelf.
The little tomb was opened wide—
O, he would bury time itself.
He set the hands at highest twelve,
He laid it prone and shoved it in;
It fitted well the secret dark,
Whence day by day there came a thin
Low-measured beating, lath by lath;
A sound to say the plaster slept;
A sound to tell him all was well From room to room that one had swept.


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