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By Jane Cooper

Once you said joking slyly, If I’m killed

I’ll come to haunt your solemn bed,

I’ll stand and glower at the head

And see if my place is empty still, or filled.


What was it woke me in the early darkness

Before the first bird’s twittering?

—A shape dissolving and flittering

Unsteady as a flame in a drafty house.


It seemed a concentration of the dark burning

By the bedpost at my right hand

While to my left that no man’s land

Of sheet stretched palely as a false morning….


All day I have been sick and restless. This evening

Curtained, with all the lights on,

I start up—only to sit down.

Why should I grieve after ten years of grieving?


What if last night I was the one who lay dead

While the dead burned beside me

Trembling with passionate pity

At my blameless life and shaking its flamelike head?


"The Faithful" from The Flashboat: Poems Collected and Reclaimed by Jane Cooper. Copyright © 2000 by Jane Cooper. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: The Flashboat: Poems Collected and Reclaimed (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2000)

  • Living

Poet Bio

Jane Cooper
A longtime resident of New York City, Jane Cooper grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. She traveled through Europe during the summer of 1947, noting the aftereffects of World War II and keeping journals of her travels. Though she suffered from primary immune deficiency, Cooper maintained an active life as a writer and mentor. She taught creative writing for 37 years at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. See More By This Poet

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