War, the Liberator, and Other Pieces/The Dead Men

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IT was yesterday I heard again
The dead man talk with living men,
And watched the thread of converse go
Among the speakers to and fro,
Woven with merriment and wit
And beauty to embroider it;
And in the middle now and then,
The laughter clear of happy men—
Only to me a charnel scent
Drifted across the argument,
Only to me his fair young head
Was lifeless and untenanted,
And in his quiet even tones,
I heard the sound of naked bones,
And in his empty eyes could see
The man who talked was dead, like me.

Then in the conversation’s swim,
I leaned across and spoke to him,
And in his dim and dreary eyes
Read suddenly a strange surprise,
And in the touch of his dank hand,
Knew that he too could understand;
So we two talked, and as we heard
Our friends’ applause of each dull word
We felt the slow and mournful winds
Blow through the corpse house of our minds,
And the cool dark of underground.
And all the while they sat around
Weighing each listless thing we said,
And did not know that we were dead.