The Burial of a Child: Bayamon, Puerto Rico

Of an afternoon, sunny and still,
The mourners come with slow and lingering pace.
A dozen peasants climb the hill
Together, though alone. With grace
An uncle or father bears upon his head
The little lavender cask of his race.
Within, a child of two is dead.
And the coffin gaily limps like a boat at sea,
But lacks a flag. A child is dead.
And quietly they nod at me
And pass where an old stream had gone to rust.
Today a special dignity
Walks with each man through the dust:
They want to steal away this child from death.
And whatever they do this day is just.
And so their memories or breath,
Their sighs or smiles or secret crossroads rite
Dance around the lavender death,
Tiny waves that caress or bite
And take what is their due, dissolve the soul
With elements of the soul. It is right.
Of an afternoon, they talk and stroll,
And slowly so they struggle up the hill
And bring the coffin to a hole.
And how like a river they rise and spill,
Flow back upon the spring and goal.
A child is dead, alone, and still. . . .