Alice Duer Miller

(28 July 1874 - 22 August 1942 / New York City, New York)

Exile


I

At dead of night about the dying fire
They told a story how the dead appear;
And men, grown still with fear,
Forgot their old desire
For those who once were dear,
And shook and trembled lest their dead be near.

Alas, poor dead who were so sweet and human!
How are you grown a menace and a blight ­
A thing to shun, a thing of evil omen,­
Stealing unwelcome through the halls of night?,
Who knows? perhaps yourselves are much affrighted,
And struggle back, remote and bodiless,
Fearful of sounds unheard, visions unsighted,
Black echoes, and the bitter loneliness.

But for me, in my heart is no dread
Of the coming again of the dead,
But a terror of life, without one
Who made life to be life - and is gone.

II

Yes, at these tales of how the dead return,
Hope stirs within my spirit more than fear.
So strange, so strange it seems, you are not here,
And so unnatural to me 'tis to learn
The trick of life without you, year by year,

That not so strange could any specter be
Or fall of footsteps on the empty stair,
Or shapes discerned upon the shadowy air,
As is this haunting sense of vacancy,
And your persisting absence everywhere.

Ah, could I see, as in the tranquil past,
The form I long for - always and in vain, -
Should I not cry, like one released from pain:
'Dear and long absent, you return at last,
And life its natural aspect wears again!'

Submitted: Thursday, March 15, 2012

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