Donald Justice


On the Death of Friends in Childhood



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On the Death of Friends in Childhood

We shall not ever meet them bearded in heaven

Nor sunning themselves among the bald of hell;

If anywhere, in the deserted schoolyard at twilight,

forming a ring, perhaps, or joining hands

In games whose very names we have forgotten.

Come memory, let us seek them there in the shadows.



Sestina: Here in Katmandu
We have climbed the mountain.
There's nothing more to do.
It is terrible to come down
To the valley
Where, amidst many flowers,
One thinks of snow,

As formerly, amidst snow,


Climbing the mountain,
One thought of flowers,
Tremulous, ruddy with dew,
In the valley.
One caught their scent coming down.

It is difficult to adjust, once down,


To the absense of snow.
Clear days, from the valley,
One looks up at the mountain.
What else is there to do?
Prayer wheels, flowers!

Let the flowers


Fade, the prayer wheels run down.
What have they to do
With us who have stood atop the snow
Atop the mountain,
Flags seen from the valley?

It might be possible to live in the valley,


To bury oneself among flowers,
If one could forget the mountain,
How, never once looking down,
Stiff, blinded with snow,
One knew what to do.

Meanwhile it is not easy here in Katmandu,


Especially when to the valley
That wind which means snow
Elsewhere, but here means flowers,
Comes down,
As soon it must, from the mountain.




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