A friend of mine told me today about how, whenever she visits a cemetery to pay her respects to her departed loved ones, she always seeks out the tombstone of a random stranger, with whom she stands and converses for a moment, honoring his or her memory and life, though she does not know them. How sweet of her, I thought. How noble and kind and good. As I considered whether a poem might be hiding in that scene, the name Harrold Lewis appeared in my thoughts (I do not know a Harrold Lewis), followed by the images and sounds of a fictional cemetery encounter between an old British seafarer and a deceased whaling colleague (the motif thanks to my currently reading Melville’s Moby Dick). Story, memory, friendship–such powerful, enduring themes living inside us all.
HELLO, HARROLD LEWIS
Hello, Harrold Lewis.
How fare ye this day?
Does the climate suit ye?
No scabies or scurvies?
The cook makes a good biscuit?
I see your stone has tipped a bit
more since last I came.
I cannae fix that,
but I’ll clip the vines and grass away,
and I’ll scrub the soot from your face.
Born 1776? July 4?
That be a good year, matie, a good year.
Thar be many a notice the day o’ your comin’,
to be sure. Quite a celebrity,
ye were! Harrold Lewis,
where do ye go from here?
How shall ye sail?
Gone sailin’ to a distant shore!
be more than words ‘graven o’ your grave.
Methinks ye be standin’ o’ the cross trees,
leanin’ o’er the wide blue,
sweet breath o’ the world in your hair,
searchin’, searchin’, a’crying’
“Thar she blows!”
Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit. The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.