Thomas Bewick, Four Boys Playing in a Church Yard, 1797
The small must take the older stones as steeds
And be satisfied:
Marble slabs a hundred years old are half played out
From years of charging.
In this row of five,
The first and fourth pitch and buck and stumble.
They are broken nags
That some day soon will fall.
Only the middle two
(Marking no doubt the younger dead)
Are still straight backed,
And so become the stallions of bigger boys, who push.
Like this, the four knights ride:
Three with straight wood swords
And leggings made
Of cast off pots and pans.
Two have cone-shaped hats
Made from the skin of lambs.
All follow the handsome boy,
No doubt the sexton’s son.
It is he leads the charge,
In black clothes that fit tightly,
And with no socks
And with a goose-winged plume.
He blows a tinhorn, leaning forward, gripping on.
And they are come:
Sallying forth across this lawn of uncut grass and crabgrass
Where the death’s head fawns in the dragon-claws weeds.
Behind the first, the second boy posts in the saddle.
And in his left hand, he grips invisible reins.
Baggy flannel clothes, blackish loafers show
He’s poorer than the rest.
Face gleaming like a beaver in the sun,
He is their Galahad,
And sees the line of foes coming on
And sees a Grail beyond the leaning graves.
The third boy sits upon an ebony stone
With wooden shoes and in a coachmen’s coat.
The hat he wears is a thing a father gives,
A tradesman’s thing.
Beneath its brim, his crabapple’s face blows
Ready to be old,
Ready to serve
Ready to tend a neighboring herd, but not today.
Today, he spurs his black stone on
And squints to see
And says he sees
All he is told there is see.
Behind him, behind them all,
The smallest of the four sings out:
The shortest, the youngest,
Whose tombstone rears and wags.
Who has led him into battle without shoes?
Made him a new knight with such short legs?
Sexton son? Poor boy?
Or would-be hired man?
Today, he rides his steed to the bone.
Tomorrow, in the early hours of the morn,
(Before the other bigger boys have come)
He’ll climb a better one.
Andrew Miller: "I am a poet, critic and translator with over eighty publications to my name. My poems have appeared in such journals as The Massachussett’s Review, Ekphrasis, Iron Horse,Shenandoah, Spoon River Reivew, Laurel Review, Hunger Mountain, Rattle and New Orleans Review. In addition, I have had poems appear in such anthologies as How Much Earth, Anthology of Fresno Poets (2001) and The Way We Work: Contemporary Literature from the Workplace (2008). Finally, I am one of the co-editors of The Gazer Within, The Selected Prose of Larry Levis (2001) and the author of Poetry, Photography Ekphrasis: Lyrical Representations of Photography from the 19th Century to the Present (2015). These many publications have come with a number of awards for my poetry. Four of my poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, three by Ekphrasis Magazineand one my Yemassee, and in 2002, David St John chose my poem “Hello My Lovely” as the best poem for Runes’ Magazine’s Mystery Prize. Additionally, in 2004, 2005 and 2006, my manuscript The Flesh of the Parables was short listed by the National Poetry Series and by Tupelo Press. I hold a PhD from Copenhagen University on the subject of ekphrastic poetry and photography."
The Ekphrastic Review
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