Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

Marilyn Dunlap of Skowhegan selected this favorite poem from a previous column, writing that though it wasn’t easy to choose from her folders of poems from the Take Heart column, she picked this one because it reminded her, as a member of Maine’s Old Cemeteries Association, of “the many lost gravesites in Maine.”

Lost Graveyards

By Elizabeth Coatsworth

In Maine the dead

melt into the forest

like Indians, or, rather,

in Maine the forests round the dead

until the dead are indistinguishably mingled

with trees; while underground,

roots and bones intertwine,

and above earth

the tilted gravestones, lichen-covered, too,

shine faintly out from among pines and birches,

burial stones and trunks

growing together

above the lattices of roots and bones.

Now is the battle over,

the harsh struggle

between man and the forest.

While they lived,

these men and women fought the encroaching trees,

hacked them with axes,

severed them with saws,

burned them in fires,

pushed them back and back

to their last lairs among the shaggy hills,

while the green fields lay tame about the houses.

Living they fought the wild,

but dead, they rested,

and the wild softly, silently, secretly,

returned. In Maine

the dead sooner or later feel the hug of rootlets,

and shadowy branches closing out the sun.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1968 Elizabeth Coatsworth. Reprinted from Down Half the World, Macmillan, 1968, by permission of the Estate of Catherine Barnes. Comments may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, at [email protected] or 228-8263.