And There Shall be No More Death

Original Text: 
Ruth Gilbert, Selected Poems 1941-1998, ed. Ruth Gilbert and Derek Bolt (Wellington, New Zealand: Original Books, 2008): 28-31.
1 Childhood
2He lifts a moth from the astonished grass
3And stares perplexed, at loss to understand
4The wings that lie unmoving in his hand;
5And with a child's vast ignorance of death
6He breathes on it his warm and living breath,
7Imploring it with unavailing cry
8To wake from its strange sleep and, wakened, fly.
9But finding protest and persuasion vain
10To stir the wings that will not stir again,
11He weeps in wrath that all his childish might
12Is not enough to give one still moth flight.
2 Youth
13I saw a starling in the snow,
14Wings stiff, its slight feet curled
15As if to wrest and hold some glow
16Of warmth from a cold world.
17I pitied it but I was young
18And my impatient skis too fleet
19To pause while shallow grief gave tongue.
20Death could not stay my feet.
21Had Earth not other birds to sing?
22What reason then to catch my breath
23At those mute wings or own the sting
24In a mere starling's death? .Àæ
25Yet, when I dream, I dream of snow,
26And always through a blinding land
27I run distracted to and fro,
28A dead bird in my hand.
3 Age
29That which the long scythe whispered to the grass
30And wan leaves falling rumoured in the land;
31That which bells tolled and whose first portent was
32A dead moth in a child's astonished hand;
33That which a bird wrote blackly upon snow;
34That which a spent hare scrawled across my path
35In a dark wood, I read again and know
36Their lesson's far from destined aftermath.
37All that they strove to teach me I find true,
38Their voices reach me with prophetic din
39Where, in this room, I stand and look on you
40And know you dead, yet cannot take death in.

Notes

1] "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4). Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2009
Form: 
Special Copyright: 

"And There Shall be No More Death" &#169; Ruth Gilbert. Printed gratis, and specifically for <i>Representative Poetry Online</i>, with permission of the author. As published in <i>Selected Poems 1941-1998</i> (2008). Any other use, including reproduction for any purposes, educational or otherwise, will require explicit written permission from Ruth Gilbert.