Widow by Martha Keller Rowland

Never give their clothes away
If you want the dead to haunt you
Dusk or dark or dawn or day,
Bar no ghost from glass, they say,
If you want the dead to want you.

Leave them there by the birchwood bed,
Coat and breeches and shirt and shoes.
Fit the living or fit the dead,
Hang them up on the hooks, I said—
The hooks he used to use.

Set the table with fork and knife.
Plump the pillow and coverlid.
Where would a man who loved his wife
Lie except where he lay in life—
Same as he always did?

Leave the mirror upon the nail.
Yes, I know that the first one who
Looks in it will perceive the pale
Dead therein—and his heart will fail.
Do what I tell you to.

Set the mirror the way it was.
Let the crepe that has hid it fall.
What thing better could come to pass
Than to find my dead in the looking-glass
Hanging upon the wall?

From: Harper’s Magazine, Volume 181, 1940, Harper & Brothers, Publishers: New York and London, p. 171.
(https://archive.org/details/harpersmagazine181junalde)

Date: 1940

By: Martha Keller Rowland (1902-1971)

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