Danielle Sisson, author
Dr. Gordon Van Ness, faculty advisor
awarded second place for best humanities paper
The poems of James Dickey (1923-1997) address man’s spiritual place in the universe, endeavoring specifically to connect the poet with the world and more generally to make sense of man’s place in the universe. Dickey attempted such poetic connections through several thematic concerns which he specifically labeled in his 1960 volume Into the Stone as family, war, death, and love, addressing these four areas through varied poetic persona, that allowed him different experiences and emotions within each dramatic situation. Dickey’s poetry therefore encompassed many “selves,” extending these various ideas with numerous personalities. Not only were his personae used as a poetic principle, but he believed, according to Richard Calhoun and Robert Hill, “that there should be many different selves in the poet” (l), assuming, for example, the role of combat aviator, husband, father, son, brother, and lifeguard, among others. He believed it was necessary for himself, as poet, to “encompass and explore each of the separate, sometimes related, sometimes unrelated personalities that inhabit him, as they inhabit us all […], confront[ing] and dramatiz[ing] parts of himself that otherwise would not have surfaced” (Sorties 161). Furthermore, these personae allowed him to connect with the world itself, to make sense of man’s place in the universe, addressing his need for wholeness. One truth, however, was constant for each of his personae: death was a necessary part of life. The thought of death—of the decline of the physical body and the subsequent absence of the self—plagued his writing.
Dickey’s The Eagle’s Mile (1990), his final collection before he died, revealed another one of his selves, one that encountered death directly. While death had always been a key concern, it was abstract or, at most, problematic. In his “early motion,” he had imagined and transfixed on death in poems such as “The Driver,” where he imagines himself underwater among dead soldiers and looks up through the water at the world, noting, “the uneasy, lyrical skin that lies / Between death and life, trembling always” (l. 28-29). At the center of his problem with death was the deterioration of the physical body, what he explained as “the most awful thing about middle age.” “You are simply a body,” he declared, “with nothing particular to recommend it” (Sorties 47). To transcend this deterioration, he utilized poetic fabrications such as in “The Performance,” where he envisioned his executed friend completing a gymnastics trick that he was never able to accomplish in reality. He allowed his friend a symbolic continuation of life as he explains, “months later [.. .] when I learned how he died, / and imagined him, there” (27-29). Creating this situation allows his friend the satisfaction of doing something—that which death prohibits.
As Dickey wrote the poems in The Eagle’s Mile, he was suffering from fibrosis of the lungs, and confronting his own physical death. However, his previous attitude of “only a body waiting to fill a grave” (Sorties 47) changed with this newfound confrontation. Consequently, he altered his perception of death from objection to peaceful acceptance. Poems such as “Expanses” portray this shift in tone, where death no longer leaves an empty shell, but instead frees the mind and soul, creating the joy of becoming “boundless, / Earthbound, trouble-free” (l. 17-18). Due to the reality of his impending—not imagined—death, Dickey began a peaceful acceptance of death as a process which finalizes life, completing the “circular truth / of the void” (Eagles 1-2) and thus man’s connection with the universe. This acceptance allows him to expose the experiences life holds, revealing the spirituality of and connections with the universe, time, and death. He ultimately balances these various experiences of life with the unity of mankind and the universe, including the relationship between life and death—something Dickey struggled with his whole life but which he resolved at the collection’s end.
In his essay, “The Self as Agent” Dickey explained his use of different personalities, or what he called the “I-figure” which supported his search for the resolution of life’s difficulties. He believed the poet has many personalities or “figure[s] designated in the poem as ‘I’” that become “[…] both an exploration and an invention of identity” (Sorties 155). In each of his poems, he explored another aspect of his persona, noting, “the poet may find his ‘self’ acting in a quite inexplicable way […] employing a familiar kind of understanding but rather a matter of aesthetic and personal curiosity” (Sorties 158). Such a curiosity led him to describe situations he never experienced, such as in his early poem “A Dog Sleeping on my Feet,” where he imagines “The hypnotized language of beasts” (l. 29) as he transforms “back into the human tongue” (l.31), returning to humanity from “the dream of an animal” (l.40). Clearly, Dickey never truly transformed into an animal but, instead, “presents a situation” (Self-Interviews 105) far outside the realm of reality in order to create a dramatic situation. This creativity was inherent in many of his poems; however, critics denounced his stories, asserting they were more than imagination—they were lies. Dickey, however, explained he seized “the creative possibilities of the lie. He [came] to understand that he [was] not after the ‘truth’ at all but something he consider[ed] much better” (Sorties 156). He trusted that the poet, in particular, has the capability to use “the expressive possibilities of […] himself: that agent in the poem whom he calls ‘I.’ [The poet] […] can call into play—can energize—any aspect of himself he wishes to, even if he doesn’t yet know what it is to be: any self the poem calls for” (Sorties 160). By exploring such personalities, he did not intend to lie about situations but, instead, to create a better truth for himself than life could provide. Indeed, he would continue that search throughout his poetic career.
Dickey’s search for poetic truth lead him to become concerned with how life should be lived. He often pondered what he called a life of upthrust, of doing things that left an impact. He defined upthrust as that which “encourages wild contemplation, intellectual chance-taking, and the setting of the faculty of reason on fire. It encourages bodily adventure and the testing of the body, mind and nerves against what may believably be mortal dangers” (Night Hurdling 180). He believed those who lacked the desire for mental and physical growth became complacent, viewing a life void of upthrust as “simply an excuse for passivity—an inaction rather than action: withdrawal and irresponsibility, and a terrible betrayal of the self” (Night Hurdling 179). To counteract this inaction, Dickey used his imagination to save himself from such betrayal. His utilization of such a redemptive creativity surfaces in poems such as “Falling,” where Dickey transforms a stewardess falling to her death to one who lives in her dying moments a life full of imagination, of meaning; she flies into the earth “falling living beginning to be something” (l. 9-10). Dickey explains the need for changing reality explaining “one can not just fall just tumble screaming all that time one must use / it” (l. 72-73). He believed through poetry he could provide a “sense of story” (Sorties 49), characteristically absent in reality, in order to give creatively to the world, himself, and others. “Falling,” in particular, created such a story that Andrew Sherwood, the fallen stewardesses’ friend, wrote to Dickey, saying, “I am extraordinarily moved by your vision of what might have been” (One Voice, I: 343). This was, in fact, Dickey’s poetic purpose. To live the life of upthrust, he believed that “poetry helps or even perhaps causes such states that I care for […] to help you to ‘not be a dead man in life’” (Crux 216). To create images of an improved reality, to invent a better story for himself and others, to make tragic situations meaningful—this constituted Dickey’s intent.
Dickey’s belief in a life of upthrust meant that death—the inability to function, to be creative, would be detrimental to his vision. Death itself would render his creative influence ineffective, and he would cease to create such visions for himself. Such a revelation left him feeling as if “there is little, sadly we can do against the multiple horrors” (Night Hurdling 177) of life as well as death, explaining, “it is the sense of deadness that is most frightening to me […] whatever does militate against the deadness has got to come from deep within […] this is where I am going—or want to go with poetry” (Crux 216). Though his imagination often saved him from such terrors, in the seventies Dickey’s creative passion diminished. During his “central motion,” he became preoccupied with death and critics specifically pointed out the difference between these poems and his earlier ones, calling them “death-obsessed, dense with assault and pain” (Liebowitz 26) and lacking the sustainability and form of his previous work. Previously, his poetry had encompassed the themes of family (“The Lifeguard”), war (“In the Lupanar at Pomepeii”), death (“The Hospital Window”), and love (“Autumn”); however, in The Eye-Beaters, Blood, Victory, Madness, Buckhead and Mercy (1970), these themes became clouded, and the volume centered around death. Gordon Van Ness explains, “the poems were more socially conscious, less centered on the self, and revealed a preoccupation with mortality” (Death, and the Day’s Light 19). Poems which clearly portray his obsession with death include “Diabetes” and “The Cancer Match” where he depicts the internal struggle of those facing death. He explains in “Diabetes” that he “always knew it would have to be / somewhere around / the house: the real / Symbol of Time I could eat / And live with, coming true when I opened my mouth” (l. 29-32). Allowing death to assume the majority of thematic concern “reflect[s] the loss of afflatus and affirmation characteristic of the early volumes. They posit only death and uncertainty, the individual confronting unstoppable forces” (Death, and the Day’s Light 19). Though he was concerned with his health and poetic reputation, his continued drinking rendered his creative intuition ineffective. With his alcoholism and declining heath, Dickey was losing the creative ability to become “transcendent and was waging a war against time itself” (Death, and the Day’s Light 20).
Dickey’s The Eagle’s Mile returned, though more generally, to the thematic concerns of his earlier volumes, resurrecting the creativity originally perceived as lacking in his later poetry. The volume, therefore, uncovered the experiences of life and centered on “the circular truth / Of the void” (Eagles 1-2), a truth that Dickey addressed throughout his poetic life. As he felt “the vague shape of life-after-death—at least for the work [beginning] to loom” (One Voice, I: 396), he captured artistically the vision of human experience. Though Dickey returned to his previous themes, they encompassed larger subjects and lacked the purposeful arrangement of his previous volumes. Dickey’s organization scatters his ideas, portraying life’s complexities, rather than in a coherent line that develops progressively. However, if the poems are grouped, his original four subjects become evident: family, war, death, and love. By grouping the poems by thematic concern rather than the order in which they appear, and by leaving the first two poems as “book ends” which begin and end the collection, a greater insight to understanding the poems collectively become apparent.
Dickey begins the collection with “Eagles,” which introduces the ideas he will present in the remaining poems in the volume. He utilizes the image of an eagle that gains an objective view of the world by its “[…] height” as it “receive[s] overlook” (l. 4-5) of the universe and people below. This “overlook” (l. 5) allows him to “discern the truth of this world” (Death, and the Day’s Light 22) by abandoning the complications of human emotion. He explains he must “leave [his] unstretched weight” (l. 40) and allow the eagle to “leav[e] behind / All sympathy: / leav[e] the man” (l. 31-33) behind in order to “achieve a ‘double vision or view’” (Death, and the Day’s light 22) that exceeds man’s limited gaze. His need to surrender his human qualities “acknowledges human limitations” and his proposal for such a distance “insist[s] [his] need to strive above one’s earthbound condition” (Death, and the Day’s Light, 22) and is necessary for Dickey’s persona to attain a better perspective on the multiple experiences he will explore throughout the collection.
While family in Into the Stone was considered as strictly biological relations, The Eagle’s Mile enlarges the thematic concern to include the natural world. Dickey believed “the universe and its creative forces were God” (One Voice, I: 43), providing the sense of spirituality that saturates the volume. He felt that “we are all trying to read the universe, and discover meaning, discover consequence there” (NH 182), contributing to his exploration of the natural world and his desire to become connected with nature. Poems that focus on the relationship with the natural world include “Immortals,” “To the Butterflies,” “The One,” “The Three,” “The Six,” and “Weeds.” They show his discontentment with humanity and his need to return to “a more simplified and organic life” (Hutchens 39-45). “Immortals” is split into three sections, including Earth, Air, and Sea, thereby allowing for Dickey to “individually confron[t]” (Outbelieving Existence 70) each element. Notably, Dickey wrote in a letter to Hal Wooten in 1996 that he “consider[ed] [himself] a survivor; luck had been with [him] on land and sea and in the air” (One Voice, I: 529). In celebration of the natural elements, he explains that the earth “[…] holds us in one place, the earth / grows as it moves, exhaling, its rooted joy” (l. 1-3), proving his belief that man lacks significance without the earth. The natural world is spiritualized, even worshipped, lending to the creation of his own spiritual realm where he can effectively control his own idea of heaven, contributing to what he called “throwing off the shackles of the Baptist religion and enter[ing] into an older world of spring time, pleasure, love and delight” (SI 184). By creating this spirituality, Dickey is able to become the creator, and he succeeds at “what [he] really wanted to be—or become—a Messiah” (One Voice, I: 269). His wish to become a savior for humanity and his portrayal of the natural world as a “newly infinite / space,” (l. 6-7) makes nature symbolic of a heavenly existence. “To the Butterflies” extends the outlook of the natural world, focusing instead on the disconnect between man and the universe and his need to bring them together. He relates the butterflies’ wings to the breath of humanity, saying:
Floating us out of it! But not dimming not fading
or the hats and handkerchiefs.
Let the wings on our mirrors
In whatever falls
Keep Breathing Keep burning
and us, Lord, please—
And us in the dresses and the shirts. (l. 50-57)
While mirroring the opening and closing of butterfly wings, the structure of the words and lines on the page reflect the fragmentation between man and the universe. The butterflies, creatures of nature, are going to “keep breathing, keep burning,” (l. 55) and the same is asked of humanity—not to dim, not to fade, not to be forgotten.
The next poems in the collection, while still focusing on the natural world, reveal the loneliness and isolation humans who are bereft of such relationships. “The One” displays human isolation, the state of being only “one, nearly transparent with existence” (l. 7-8) without the essential quality of connection. Furthermore, he suggests the dangers of being a “man alone, born level eyed” (l. 28), a man who refuses to see the “double vision” (Death, and the Day’s Light 22) for which Dickey strives. To transcend a level view of the world, he suggests man has to “give up / part of [his] reality” (l. 3-4) to uncover the true relationship with nature. “The Six” expands upon this idea, showing the need of humans to be connected not only to nature, but to one another:
Some place else, and though she passes
Through you like rock-salt, she is still six
and not one.
But neither is the rain
Single, blotting number and stone
With vibrancy; neither is the rain I tell you. (l. 17-22)
Here, Dickey compares the wholeness of a soul to the rain: there are many droplets of rain, as there are many characteristics of the soul. He expresses the need to be connected with other individuals and nature is the underlying need for human relationships. This need for connection continues in “Weeds”:
Stars and grass
Have between them a connection I’d like to make
More of—find some way to bring them
To one level any way I can. (l.1-4)
He now broadens his desire for connection, endeavoring to construct relationships among all living things in the universe. Such associations would make it possible for Dickey, as well as his intended persona, to create meaningful connections between man and the world, helping to alleviate the present human condition that affects each generation. To return to nature’s simplicity would help mitigate what he felt was “the sickening quality in the lives of modern human beings,” the “paralyzing sense of futility, helplessness, frustration and sterility” (Night Hurdling 176) of modern civilization. For Dickey, a relationship with the natural world was an escape from such hopelessness; connecting mankind with nature would reduce, if not end, man’s continual struggle.
In Into the Stone, Dickey characterizes war as armed combat, however, The Eagle’s Mile presents a conflict as being with time itself. The poems “Daughter,” “Night Bird,” “The Olympian,” “The Little More,” and “For a Time and Place” all depict man’s struggle to still time: an impossibility without death. He often grappled with the progression of time, particularly after the death of his fellow poet Allen Tate. Believing Tate was “the very last of his kind” (One Voice, II: 43) contributed to his recognition of the inevitability of escaping time as he was “once more confronted with his inability to counter time’s relentless debilitation” (One Voice, II: 43), an inability that appeared in the earlier poem “The Zodiac in [which] he called [time] ‘the thing that eats’” (The Once Voice II: 43). Dickey’s war with time appears in “Daughter,” where a father anticipates his daughter’s arrival, listening “to the unwounded clock” (l. 4). Though his daughter is just moments into the world, he looks upon her face and mumbles:
[…] you are part of the wave,
Of flowing stone: Understand: you are part of the wave,
Of the glacier’s irrevocable
Millennial inch. (l. 48-50)
Here Dickey shows the inevitability of time, the terrifying realization that even a newborn is part of the “millennial inch” (l. 50) towards death. He then utilizes the imagery of birds in “Night Bird,” where man continues to lack the double vision; he has “His failure to see: / this gleam” (l. 14-15) of time, its pulsation, “some beating in there,” (l. 1) which “must be able to fall / and rise / and fall […]” (l. 5-7). Because he suggests man fails to see time as enemy, “The Olympian” emerges, personifying time in a narrative style which depicts the race against time. In this race, humanity is “losing / but not badly, and even gain[s] a little” (l. 75-76) where winning would make one “world-recognized poison-proof smoke-proof time-proof” (l. 97). Dickey, however, realizes the race with time always ends in death and in this realization hears “the Olympian’s laugh” (l. 140) or time’s laugh, knowing he has already lost. The notion that no one can escape time is continued in “The Little More,” where even a young boy is faced “with all the warnings of doctors” (l. 13) and all he needs to reach “Manhood is only a little more, / a little more time, a little more everything than he has on him now […]” (l. 4-6). With his understanding that even children are not safe from time’s progression, he attempts to counter this terrifying realization in “For a Time and Place,” asserting that the end of death returns us to the earth, allowing the “flicker of lostness” (l. 53) to cease. He explains that death is the “point between / The baskets and the tree is where we best / Are,” and with it we will come to realize “[…] our soil, our soul” (l. 58-60). His exploration of mankind’s redemption through death, and the physical connection with the earth through burial, are keys in Dickey’s understanding of death present solely in this volume.
Though Dickey’s subjects of family, war, and love became drastically enlarged, death still resides presently as a thematic concern, however, his attitude towards death drastically changes over the course of the volume. Poems such as “Circuit,” “Vessels,” “Sleepers,” “Tomb Stone,” “To Be Done in Winter,” and “Snow Thickets,” show his realization of death as an escape from the battle with time. In a letter to James Wright in 1964, Dickey expressed his problem with death, saying, “It is the sense of deadness that is most frightening to me, and it is also the sense that such deadness can’t really be got around or done away with liquor, sex, or other stimuli that both scares me and stimulates me” (Crux 216). These poems show the transition of his attitude towards death from painful loss to acceptance and even joy. In 1970, Dickey noted in a letter to Jay Deiss that he had “never understood the way the world works, the way the universe works, and the way chance works” (One Voice 71) regarding death. His need to become aware of the design of the universe appears in “Circuit,” which employs natural imagery as he relates impending death to the rhythmic movement of waves on a beach. He explains life as a “slow-going headlong / For the circle” (l. 3-4), which connects his previous claim in “Eagles” of “the circular truth of / the void” (l. 1-2). He identifies this “circular truth,” suggesting life is essentially a circle with death being the “void.” Without the acceptance of each piece of the circle of life, including death, the circle remains broken. With the notion that death is the void, Dickey finds the truth he was searching for—this truth is death. In this realization, death’s inevitability no longer perplexes him explaining:
their minds on a perfect connection, no matter
How long it takes. You can’t be
On them without making the choice
To meet yourself no matter
How Long. Don’t be afraid;
It will come will hit you. (l. 6-11)
He advises not to be afraid of death because it creates a “perfect connection” (l. 6), allowing man “to meet [himself]” (l. 9) wholly and completely. Death completes the connection Dickey longed for, as he asserts death “will come will hit you” (l. 11). “Vessels” expands the idea of connection through death; he now “crave[s] wandering / and giving […]” (l. 6-7), craves connection between the living and dead. He explains how his “real brother, who talks like no leaf / or no half” (l. 12-13), can not communicate through death, and he wishes to be with his brother “exactly, / or near enough” (l. 21-22). This notion of a communion with the dead is continued in “Sleepers” where he gives the dead a voice and suggests that “the voice / for sleepers; find it— / and you can join them […](l. 6-8). However, “Tomb Stone” shows his progression in the understanding of death as he says:
I must ask you, though, not to fall
and to forgive me
For coming here, as I keep doing,
as I have done. (l. 4-8)
The poem shows his movement towards the acceptance of death as he stands at a tomb stone, noting, “this place named you” (l. 1) and refuses to keep returning. “Tomb Stone” is a particularly biographical poem about Dickey’s first wife, Maxine, who in 1976 “got out of bed and hemorrhaged in the bathroom […] the blood vessels around her esophagus burst and released nearly half her blood[…].” His discovery of his wife was graphic, later telling a journalist: “I held her in my arms, bleeding to death [between] blood-splattered suburban bathroom walls” (Hart 558). Maxine stayed in the hospital several days, relatively stable, until she and Dickey had an argument and she “hemorrhage[d] again and died on her way to the operating room” (Hart 558). For years he struggled with the guilt of “arguing with her on her deathbed” (Hart 560) and felt he contributed to her death. The poem “Tomb Stone” shows a new evolution in his new approach towards loss, especially towards his previous guilt-ridden feelings. He chooses to cease lamenting over the disconnection between the living and dead because he has realized “In death, the earth becomes / Absolute earth” (l. 14-15), the process to which everyone returns and, in this, true connection is possible. With this new-found understanding of death, he decides to “hold all there is: hold on” (l. 15) to life. A notion of life after death furthers the connection Dickey longed for, mentioning he wanted to believe in a heavenly place where “we will all go back there together when we die, and it will all be as it was” (One Voice, II: 71). In the poem “To Be Done in Winter” he suggests this heavenly existence can be possible through memories:
He makes no sound: the cold flurries, and he comes all the way
Back into life; in the mind
There is no decay. Imagine him
As to behold him, for if you fail
To remember, he lies without
What his body was. (l. 7-11)
He now realizes the lack of connection was only superficial; keeping someone alive though memories where “there is no decay” (l. 8) gives the dead a symbolic and eternal rebirth, an escape from time through death itself. After the death of a friend, Dickey asked in a letter to Maryrose Carroll in 1996 to “stay in touch, so that we may be with Paul on both sides of the shadow-line. One can do such things as you know” (One Voice 527). He even imagined Paul as the poem suggests, and in this memory he could feel “the steadiness of his warmth and his imagination: something that was always there, and still is” (One Voice 527), giving his friend the symbolic continuation of life through memory that he offers in the poem. He portrays the action of this rebirth in “Snow Thickets,” saying, “eyes burning thorns hooding our tongues / being born” (l. 9-10), showing the experience through the perspective of the dead. While memory was important for Dickey to make one eternal, it was poetry that gave him the “infinite renewability of the individual human life” (NH 109-110), allowing him to accept death as the process which completes the circle of the void.
Dickey’s previous treatment of love between two partners in Into The Stone, expands in The Eagle’s Mile to portray the struggle of life in its absence. The poems concerned with this struggle include “Gila Bend,” “Daybreak,” “Two Women,” “Spring Shock,” “Meadow Bridge,” and “Moon Flock.” The consequences of war are seen in “Gila Bend” where Dickey portrays “aerial gunnery” (l.1) which bring “dead bullets” (l.3) that generate death and hatred. Dickey explains that mankind tries ineffectively to “brand / the ground,” to leave something of oneself behind, but without compassion “leave[s] / not a thing” (l.4-6). Dickey asserts that because we fail to show love, we are completely “alone,” a fate “harder than resurrection” (l. 13). “Two Women” mirrors this solitude, saying, “I am alone here. / I should be, for I have / No Mark” (l. 8-10). Dickey felt that “the culture we have created,” contributed to such an isolation, that the concern with the immaterial is “partly to blame,” and “that cultural condition […] has produced us” (NH 178). Through this realization of cultural disintegration, and the recurrence of isolation of the individual, “Meadow Bridge” emerges, asking “what hope” (l. 22) is left for man in an unforgiving existence. Dickey effectively answers this quest for hope in “Daybreak,” saying:
Under you, and at your feet find your body
No different from cloud, among the other
See-through images, as you are flawingly
but purely, somewhere,
Somewhere in all thought. (l. 22-27)
Pairing organic imagery with human thought, the material with the immaterial, the poet further suggests that answers lie within the simplicity of the universe. He suggests that hope exists for the individual who exceeds the boundaries of the cultural condition by making connections that they will inevitably be in “thought”(l. 23) “somewhere”(l. 27), allowing for a symbolic continuation of life after death. “Moon Flock” reciprocates the optimism of eternity, saying, “when the whole earth places you / underfoot / as though suspended / for good” (l. 30-32), showing connections with the earth that make it possible to achieve the transcendence for which Dickey strived.
The Eagle’s Mile closes with “Expanses,” which offers the final word Dickey offers on all the themes explained in the collection. This poem joyously reviews the experiences of life—of time, struggles, and death—with a new conception of how death can symbolically free man from time and hardship. His celebration of the natural world appears once again as he explains that the “enjoyable clouds”(l. 1) and “The far friendly mountain”(l. 13) greet man in death. As he realizes his impending death, he declares, “it’s true, he’s alive, but from this distance / no one could tell he is breathing”(l. 2-3). However, his outlook on death from the previous poems has changed, and he now accepts his own death, suggesting it brings escapes and connection, as he ends with resolution knowing that with death he will be “boundless, / Earthbound, trouble-free” (l. 17-18).
Throughout The Eagle’s Mile Dickey creates a world in which he finds inspiration in the beauty of the natural world, while creatively imagining how to connect the natural world to other facets of human experience. Dickey ends finding the truth for which he had always searched: that death is an unavoidable piece of “the circular truth” of life and without it the circle remains broken. He accepts the end of his own life and realizes it brings peace as the ultimate escape from time. Though he spent most of his life at war with death and often questioned the organization of the universe, in his final lines of poetry he peacefully accepts death as a unifier, and in this realization comes “joy like short grass” (l. 19).
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