A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is, any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer, designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say, Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic;
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white;
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you, curling grass;
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men;
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people, and from women, and from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps;
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers;
Darker than the colorless beards of old men;
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
I lay down beside a fallen tree and, through the scope, watched a rabbit - oh, sixty, seventy yards away - too distant for a shot by far, hopping and peacefully nibbling. My silenced phone went off in my pocket: Buzzzz Buzzzz, Buzzzz Buzzzz - I left it alone and carried on watching the rabbit.
A flat expanse of grass lay between us - hopeless to crawl across. I considered the hopelessness of crawling across the grass and then commenced to crawl across the grass; slowly, very slowly; moving the rifle ahead of me and then inching forward with my toes, grabbing handfuls of the green stuff to drag myself along, inch by inch and all the time keeping an eye - squinting through my spec's - on the animal and trying to nudge forwards when it was looking away from me only; five yards; ten yards; fifteen yards.
My phone went off again: Buzzzz Buzzzz, Buzzzz Buzzzz; I pulled it out of my pocket and turned it off; the little animal kept on nibbling.
The rabbit ambled through the fence into the next field and disappeared from view; suddenly sleepy, I lay there in the spring sunshine - this Easter Day - put my head down on my arm and closed my eyes. Time passed.
I got up and walked towards the next field; great, shaggy, long-horned cattle in there, all giving me the serious eye; well, I thought, I shan't be making my way across there - remembering a herd of bullocks that had eye'd me similarly, a year before on a fishing trip, before they'd given chase and forced me to leap - terrified - over a barbed-wire fence into a dense and welcoming cloud of nettles.
I sat on the stile that led out of the field and - looking across at the cattle grazing in the sun - listened to my phone messages. Then I called it a day and walked home.