State Funeral

Ten men, nine alive .
steep stone stair .
the Capitol Dome above in the blowing air ...
the throng below along the Drive ...
and the sets switch on all over America:
children by the wood-chunk stove,
man against the wall. The woman
lays her work down, turns her chair.
Ten men, nine alive,
small in the flickering glass go down
step by step that steep of stair,
no spoken word, no heard command,
and the band plays, over and over,
God of our Fathers Strong to Save:
the trumpets sound, the flags wave . . .
Why does she weep? For a dead President?
Presidents have died before
(when lilacs last). For an old soldier?
That was in another war
and the graves green grown, the letters folded.
What has she seen in the glass to weep so?
What death is this goes down that stair
step by step? O great Republic,
lifted like a wave once, breasting
wind and world and all, now faltering
lost in grandeur at the crest,
what death is this goes down that stair?
She picks her work up, turns her chair.
She hears the band play on, the boots
hush upon the stone descending.