Reversal at Arlington
Reversal at Arlington
Oh you are men of stones
now. You have cracked
one way or another.
Having tongues and eyes, you have also,
at some point,
whether silently or aloud, being of
this hallowed, hollowed earth.
Though you’re now reduced
to roles–names, dates, ranks, wars–
‘father, husband, grandfather, Purple
Heart” – you were not players strutting
in a play, not king
for a day, nor me neither, a daughter,
a daughter who was allowed, always,
to heave her heart
into her mouth,
a daughter who
looks there, as Lear says, seeking breath
in the stillness.
I’m sorry. Another Arlington Cemetery poem. And very much a draft–I’ve edited it extensively since first posting. (I’ve probably not made it better either, as this last edit is being done at 4:30 in the morning. But I woke up with a change of heart.)
My father is buried at Arlington. This is a rather odd poem, based upon the last few lines of King Lear in “King Lear” uttered after his daughter, Cordelia, has been killed. A Purple Heart is a U.S. medal awarded to a military service person wounded or killed in service person wounded in combat.
At the suggestion of the wonderful Hedgewitch, I am posting the main quote that I was thinking of in writing this poem. It is Act V, Scene 3, when Lear carries in his daughter, Cordelia, who has been hanged. Cordelia had earlier been estranged from Lear because of her refusal/inability to “heave her heart into her mouth” and declare the specific measure of her love for her father in a who-loves-dad-most competition with her two older sisters, Goneril and Reagan.
Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
Throughout the scene, Lear tries to see if Cordelia is breathing (which would mean that he is mistaken and that she lives.) He repeats as his last words, “look there,” seeming to find her breath.
The line about the players strutting is (kind of) from Macbeth.Explore posts in the same categories: poetry, Uncategorized comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.