The Cross-Roads

Amy Lowell 1874 (Brookline) – 1925 (Brookline)

A bullet through his heart at dawn. On the table a letter signed
with a woman's name. A wind that goes howling round the house,
and weeping as in shame. Cold November dawn peeping through the windows,
cold dawn creeping over the floor, creeping up his cold legs,
creeping over his cold body, creeping across his cold face.
A glaze of thin yellow sunlight on the staring eyes. Wind howling
through bent branches. A wind which never dies down. Howling, wailing.
The gazing eyes glitter in the sunlight. The lids are frozen open
and the eyes glitter.

The thudding of a pick on hard earth. A spade grinding and crunching.
Overhead, branches writhing, winding, interlacing, unwinding, scattering;
tortured twinings, tossings, creakings. Wind flinging branches apart,
drawing them together, whispering and whining among them. A waning,
lobsided moon cutting through black clouds. A stream of pebbles and earth
and the empty spade gleams clear in the moonlight, then is rammed again
into the black earth. Tramping of feet. Men and horses.
Squeaking of wheels.

'Whoa! Ready, Jim?'

'All ready.'

Something falls, settles, is still. Suicides have no coffin.

'Give us the stake, Jim. Now.'

Pound! Pound!

'He'll never walk. Nailed to the ground.'

An ash stick pierces his heart, if it buds the roots will hold him.
He is a part of the earth now, clay to clay. Overhead the branches sway,
and writhe, and twist in the wind. He'll never walk with a bullet
in his heart, and an ash stick nailing him to the cold, black ground.

Six months he lay still. Six months. And the water welled up in his body,
and soft blue spots chequered it. He lay still, for the ash stick
held him in place. Six months! Then her face came out of a mist of green.
Pink and white and frail like Dresden china, lilies-of-the-valley
at her breast, puce-coloured silk sheening about her. Under the young
green leaves, the horse at a foot-pace, the high yellow wheels of the chaise
scarcely turning, her face, rippling like grain a-blowing,
under her puce-coloured bonnet; and burning beside her, flaming within
his correct blue coat and brass buttons, is someone. What has dimmed the sun?
The horse steps on a rolling stone; a wind in the branches makes a moan.
The little leaves tremble and shake, turn and quake, over and over,
tearing their stems. There is a shower of young leaves,
and a sudden-sprung gale wails in the trees.

The yellow-wheeled chaise is rocking - rocking, and all the branches
are knocking - knocking. The sun in the sky is a flat, red plate,
the branches creak and grate. She screams and cowers, for the green foliage
is a lowering wave surging to smother her. But she sees nothing.
The stake holds firm. The body writhes, the body squirms.
The blue spots widen, the flesh tears, but the stake wears well
in the deep, black ground. It holds the body in the still, black ground.

Two years! The body has been in the ground two years. It is worn away;
it is clay to clay. Where the heart moulders, a greenish dust, the stake
is thrust. Late August it is, and night; a night flauntingly jewelled
with stars, a night of shooting stars and loud insect noises.
Down the road to Tilbury, silence - and the slow flapping of large leaves.
Down the road to Sutton, silence - and the darkness of heavy-foliaged trees.
Down the road to Wayfleet, silence - and the whirring scrape of insects
in the branches. Down the road to Edgarstown, silence - and stars like
stepping-stones in a pathway overhead. It is very quiet at the cross-roads,
and the sign-board points the way down the four roads, endlessly points
the way where nobody wishes to go.

A horse is galloping, galloping up from Sutton. Shaking the wide,
still leaves as he goes under them. Striking sparks with his iron shoes;
silencing the katydids. Dr. Morgan riding to a child-birth over Tilbury way;
riding to deliver a woman of her first-born son. One o'clock from
Wayfleet bell tower, what a shower of shooting stars! And a breeze
all of a sudden, jarring the big leaves and making them jerk up and down.
Dr. Morgan's hat is blown from his head, the horse swerves, and curves away
from the sign-post. An oath - spurs - a blurring of grey mist.
A quick left twist, and the gelding is snorting and racing
down the Tilbury road with the wind dropping away behind him.

The stake has wrenched, the stake has started, the body, flesh from flesh,
has parted. But the bones hold tight, socket and ball, and clamping them down
in the hard, black ground is the stake, wedged through ribs and spine.
The bones may twist, and heav
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Amy Lowell

Amy Lawrence Lowell was an American poet of the imagist school from Brookline, Massachusetts who posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926. more…

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    "The Cross-Roads" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 22 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/2308/the-cross-roads>.

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