My mother forbad us to walk backwards.

That’s how the dead walk, she would say.

                          Anne Carson, Short Talks

 

 

I can sense them all, pulling away

from the shadows of their loved ones

late in the evening when everything

is cooling and lengthening

and light catches the upper branches

of the beech leaves.

 

The dead are walking backwards

down in the woods

towards the Calder River

and Crimsworth’s deep ravine,

whispering to each other.

Some are lounging by the water,

 

some are lying in the banks

of wild garlic,

some gather bluebells

to remind themselves

of the living,

to remind themselves

 

that summer’s nearly here

and soon the meadowsweet

will drown them all in scent.

The dead will comfort us—

shade us from all that heat.