Ó-po-po whispered my Arcadian father
As the four of us came over the dazzling slope
Of freshly mown grass aglitter with morning dew.
Open-mouthed, dactylic stress that keeps
The breathless canopy of trees idyllic,
Exactly like in Poussin’s painting, where shepherds
Puzzle over an ancient tomb inscribed
Et in Arcadia ego, not knowing what
On earth it means in their neoclassical Eden.
My staggered father knew, yet didn’t know,
From World War II, that there could be so many—
So many snow-white crosses, and all of them staked
In row upon perfectly symmetrical row.
Ó-po-po he whispered, just softly enough
For us to hear, but not to wake up the rest.
Then further down, beyond the Flame Eternal,
My mother exclaimed, “Oh look—the poor brother!”
And pointed her finger directly at Aeschylus,
Whose words were engraved on the shrine for RFK.
“Look, that’s Greek.” But it was all in English:
Even in our sleep, that pain which cannot
Forget falls drop by drop upon the heart,
Until, in our despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom through the awful grace of God…
Even in bloodless sleep and drop by drop
The lawn aglitter with morning dew a chorus
Sings from deep in the sacred grove of the Furies.
And look, oh look and ó-po-po I hear it.