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Highgate Cemetery

Shanta Acharya feels gentle intimations.

I wandered among the dead in a cemetery town
exploring the winding paths where angels carved in stone
directed me through green alleyways.

This island with overhanging yew and trailing clematis
with unifying ivy nurturing insects, larvae, butterflies and birds
has more to do with the living than the departed.
We need solace of the Comfort Corner more than the dead.

Through the hawthorn and blackthorn, field maple and elm
a cool wind blows steadily through our realm.

The voices of children from the playground across the school
confirm the inscription on Karl Marx’s tomb:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world
in various ways. The point however is to change it.

Every day our little world changes a little bit,
whether we like it or not is quite irrelevant.

I imagine a dialogue between Marx and Krishna.
It is easier I confess to alter myself than the world.

When our friends start to leave, it is time
to take stock of our coming and going:

Of those immortal dead who live again
in minds made better by their presence.

In unmapped terrain within us we bury
in terraced catacombs painful memories.
If only we could let them grow out of us like trees.

© Shanta Acharya 2006

Shanta Acharya is Executive Director, Initiative on Foundation and Endowment Asset Management at London Business School. She has published four collections, ‘Highgate Cemetery’ being from the most recent, Shringara (Shoestring Press). Somewhere, Something will be published by Arc in 2009. Please visit her website shantaacharya.com.

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