A Woman’s Grave.
Addison Erwin Sheldon. Poems and Sketches of Nebraska, 1908.
A coyote crosses the sand-flat wide
With hungry eyes on his destined prey—
A prairie dog on his porch at play—
Crosses and scatters beneath his feet
The wind-blown folds of a winding sheet.
I stopped to study with curious care
The lonely grave that was hidden there;
A headstone, scarred by sand and flame,
Still recorded a woman’s name
And the legend carved in rude design—
“Died, April, 1849,
“Aged five and twenty years;
“To the Mount of Life from the plains of tears.”
Was she a wife? It does not tell.
A mother? Perhaps. We know as well,
For on the gravestone above the mould
Simply a woman’s name is told.—
A woman’s name, but let it rest—
Why should it be here exprest?
Let the desert claim her for his bride,
Sleeping softly upon his side.
Long I paused in the evening dim
And gazed at the headstone black and dim—
Black with the fires of many a year,
Sweeping the sandhills far and near,
The coyote’s cry came thro’ the shades,
A lizard troubled the spear grass blades,
And a light gray cloud passed overhead,
Dropping a tear—for it knew the dead.
I mused and wondered the more I thought—
Who she was who lay in that lonely spot.
Was she slender and fair to view
With a soul to dare and a hand to do?
A hero’s heart in her woman’s breast
Beating with passion to know the West,
Yet soothing with ways that never fail
The long, wild leagues of the Overland Trail?
With a woman’s vision of faith and hope
Viewing the mountains’ western slope—
Till the setting sun on the western sea
Beckoned her on to its mystery?
The cactus grows on the drifting mound;
The wolf and the sandstorm scar the ground;
The wolf and the wind may wail and sweep
Above the bed where she lies asleep—
Not the wind nor the wolf shall disturb the rest
Of the woman hero who loved the West.