For David and a winter walk
This winter I have seen the graves
Of Samuel Clemens and Frederick Douglass,
Buried fifteen years and a hundred miles apart
In the glacial till of western New York.
How well they knew each other
We can safely guess as great.
Twain’s father-in-law, Jervis Langdon,
A conductor on the Underground Railroad,
Helped Douglas flee north.
And In 1879 we know they shared a stage in New York City.
Douglass’s tomb is a very public place,
A broad, flat stone, visible from the Rochester street,
Where people still leave flowers.
Twain’s is more remote,
A quiet hillock in an Elmira graveyard
Where the ancient white oaks are dense
And often decked with hundreds of noisy crows,
Big black birds that cry and take flight
In the cold twilight as I stroll close,
Wheel like a river current
Wafting away a boy named Huck
And his runaway friend and protector
Around the bend
Toward the ocean’s maw.