I knew the dignity of the words: 
“As for man, his days are as grass, 
As a flower of the field so he flourisheth; 
For the wind passeth, and he is gone” —
But I was not prepared for the beauty 
Of the old people coming from the church 
Nor for the suddenness with which our slow 
Procession came again in sight of the awakening 
Land, as passing white houses, Negroes 
In clothes the colors of the earth they plowed, 
We turned, to see bushes and rusting roofs 
Flicker past one way, the stretch of fields 
Plowed gray or green with rye flow constant 
On the other, away to unchanging pines 
Hovering over parallel boles like 
Dreams of clouds. 

                                                      At the cemetery the people 
Surprised me again, walking across 
The wave of winter-bleached grass and stones 
Toward his grave; grotesques, yet perfect 
In their pattern: Wainwright’s round head, 
His bad shoulder hunched and turning 
That hand inward, Luby Paschal’s scrubbed 
Square face, lips ready to whistle to 
A puppy, his wife’s delicate ankles 
Angling a foot out, Norwood Whitley 
Unconsciously rubbing his blue jaw, 
Locking his knees as if wearing boots; 

The women’s dark blue and brocaded black, 
Brown stockings on decent legs supporting 
Their infirm frames carefully over 
The wintry grass that called them down, 
Nell Overman moving against the horizon 
With round hat and drawn-back shoulders —
Daring to come and show themselves 
Above the land, to face the dying 
Of William Henry Applewhite, 
Whose name was on the central store 
He owned no more, who was venerated, 
Generous, a tyrant to his family 
With his ally, the God of Moses and lightning 
(With threat of thunderclouds rising in summer 
White and ominous over level fields); 
Who kept bright jars of mineral water 
On his screened, appled backporch, who prayed 
With white hair wispy in the moving air, 
Who kept the old way in changing times, 
Who killed himself plowing in his garden. 
I seemed to see him there, above 
The bleached grass in the new spring light, 
Bowed to his handplow, bent-kneed, impassive, 
Toiling in the sacrament of seasons.