Vox Populi

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David Kirby: More Than This

When you tell me that a woman is visiting the grave 

of her college friend and she’s trying not to get irritated 

at the man in the red truck who keeps walking back and forth 

and dropping tools as he listens to a pro football 

game on the truck radio, which is much too loud, I start

to feel as though I know where this story is going, 

so I say Stop, you’re going to make me cry.

How sad the world is. When young men died in the mud 

of Flanders, the headmaster called their brothers out 

of the classroom one by one, but when the older brothers 

began to die by the hundreds every day, they simply handed 

the child a note as he did his lessons, and of course the boy 

wouldn’t cry in front of the others, though at night 

the halls were filled with the sound of schoolboys sobbing

for the dead, young men only slightly older than themselves.

Yet the world’s beauty breaks our hearts as well:

the old cowboy is riding along and looks down

at his dog and realizes she died a long time ago

and that his horse did as well, and this makes him

wonder if he is dead, too, and as he’s thinking this,

he comes to a big shiny gate that opens onto a golden

highway, and there’s a man in a robe and white wings,

and when the cowboy asks what this place is, the man tells 

him it’s heaven and invites him in, though he says animals

aren’t allowed, so the cowboy keeps going till he comes

to an old rusty gate with a road full of weeds and potholes

on the other side and a guy on a tractor, and the guy

wipes his brow and says you three must be thirsty,

come in and get a drink, and the cowboy says okay,

but what is this place, and the guy says it’s heaven,

and the cowboy says then what’s that place down

the road with the shiny gate and the golden highway,

and when the guy says oh, that’s hell, the cowboy

says doesn’t it make you mad that they’re pretending

to be you, and the guy on the tractor says no,

we like it that they screen out the folks who’d desert

their friends. You tell me your friend can’t take it

any more, and she turns to confront the man

who’s making all the noise, to beg him to leave her alone 

with her grief, and that’s when she sees that he’s been 

putting up a Christmas tree on his son’s grave

and that he’s grieving, too, but in his own way,

one that is not better or worse than the woman’s,

just different, the kind of grief that says the world

is so beautiful, that it will give you no peace. 

Copyright 2019 David Kirby. From More Than This (Louisiana State University Press, 2019). Included in Vox Populi by permission of LSU Press and the author.

David Kirby is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University. His many books include Help Me, Information (LSU, 2021).

14 comments on “David Kirby: More Than This

  1. rhass1
    April 15, 2023

    “you three must be thirsty, come in a get a drink. . . ” I drank deeply from this poem.


  2. Lisa Zimmerman
    April 14, 2023

    Oh, my. That ending 😭

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jefferson Carter
    April 11, 2023

    I think David Kirby is a wonderful poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. louisehawes
    April 11, 2023

    So wide-ranging, so lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sexton Sean
    April 11, 2023

    Very nice David!

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS


  6. Robbi Nester
    April 11, 2023

    Just wow.


  7. Tony Magistrale
    April 11, 2023

    Really great poem, David, filled with the kinds of nuances that make great poetry.


  8. David Adès
    April 11, 2023

    Ha! I was wondering where this poem was going (and taking me!). I love a good turn in a poem. Brilliant!!!


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This entry was posted on April 11, 2023 by in Most Popular, Poetry, Social Justice, spirituality, War and Peace and tagged , , , .

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