For Bill's challenge I chose a poem about Nova Scotia (my maternal ancestral home) and about death. This poem, by renowned American poet Elizabeth Bishop, elicits a variety of emotions for me, from the poignant subject (the death of a child) to the stark isolation of Nova Scotia itself.
As family historians, we are often drawn into the events surrounding death and dying. In so doing, we feel compelled to document "the where and the when," while the human need to understand "the why" is ever present in our subconscious.
Bishop was born more than 100 years ago in Massachusetts. However, it was not America that formed her. After the death of her father, the 3-year old Elizabeth was taken to Great Village, Nova Scotia, where she stayed with her grandmother. Nova Scotia is the setting of many of her best poems.
In "First Death in Nova Scotia," she remembers a cousin's body laid out in the parlor, his loss of color and detail dissolving him into the snow outside.
From Elizabeth Bishop's Questions of Travel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1956), here is: