Classic and Contemporary Poetry
LINNA, by LEXIE DEAN ROBERTSON Poet's Biography
First Line: The church was heavy with the deep sweet scent of / roses
Last Line: Amen.
Subject(s): Churches; Death; Household Employees; Cathedrals; Dead, The; Servants; Domestics; Maids
THE church was heavy with the deep sweet scent of roses
Banked in rows of bloom around the altar,
Where the casket stood upon a carpet of blue gentians.
The choir sang softly
While tears streamed down their faces,
For Linna was beloved by all who knew her,
Even by those who envied her,
And never more than now
When she lay dead.
Sweet Linna, now so strange and waxen pale.
The minister chose a text and then began his eulogy:
Here lies a good woman, he said,
And I who knew the narrow tenets of his creed
Could only wonder.
Poor Linnaalways on hand when there was work to do
In the church kitchen. I've seen her stand
And wash thick plates and heavy cups and saucers
Three long hot summer hours without stopping.
Linna whose pagan feet had danced at dawn
Down in the willow thicket by the brook,
Who heard the muted laughter of gay daffodils,
Who caught pale moonlight in a misty scarf
That wrapped her lovely body while she lay
Alone one midnight in the lush warm grass;
Linna who knew the secret of the prairie winds,
And held a close communion with the singing stars.
Once when I called I found her clad
In black georgette pajamas with crimson high-heeled slippers
Clacking across the tiles to let me in;
The air was fragrant with the pale blue incense
Of a cigarette. She laughed a bit
And said that I had caught her in a mood of scarlet sin.
Sometimes she felt so bound about she simply had to fling
A gay defiance or go quite off her balance.
And once I saw her angry when some evangelist
Had preached a hellfire sermon that condemned
The babies and the heathen to the pangs
Of everlasting torment.
I believe, she said to me,
That God will save a good Mohammedan
Or anyone whose life accords with his own creed
Of what is right and wrong.
I believe in Christ, but I believe, too, in Buddha,
And in all saints whose people have been led to believe in them
And do their works.
Why could they, too, have not been sent
By God to be His Sons according to the need of time and place?
She dared not say these things aloud
For there was much to be considered.
Dear Linna, selling cakes and pies
To help the foreign heathen.
The minister spoke with tears of her good works,
Her willingness to be of service
In the Master's cause;
And all the while I wondered had he known
The lovely heart of Linna
Would he then condemn her as an heretic.
Here lies a good woman
Whose soul has gone to live in heaven,
So he said,
And I who knew her secret depths,
Her oneness with the earth,
Her eager heart that had gone reaching out for beauty,
The silver shining of her clear-cut mind,
Her bright young spirit that translated all of God
In terms of loving,
I echoed back
A fervent, hushed
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