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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

184. Elizabeth Childers

DUST of my dust,

And dust with my dust,

O, child who died as you entered the world,

Dead with my death!

Not knowing Breath, though you tried so hard,

With a heart that beat when you lived with me,

And stopped when you left me for Life.

It is well, my child. For you never traveled

The long, long way that begins with school days,

When little fingers blur under the tears

That fall on the crooked letters.

And the earliest wound, when a little mate

Leaves you alone for another;

And sickness, and the face of Fear by the bed;

The death of a father or mother;

Or shame for them, or poverty;

The maiden sorrow of school days ended;

And eyeless Nature that makes you drink

From the cup of Love, though you know it’s poisoned;

To whom would your flower-face have been lifted?

Botanist, weakling? Cry of what blood to yours?—

Pure or foul, for it makes no matter,

It’s blood that calls to our blood.

And then your children—oh, what might they be?

And what your sorrow? Child! Child!

Death is better than Life!