Bellefontaine: Dancing in the shadows

A city in the shadow,
                a counterpart where

 shadows walk and shadows
                sleep, wrapped

 in shadow stories

                  a shrouded history

 of a search for an ocean that
                 burgeoned into an empire

 a bridge to conquer a river
                 a span of stone and steel ribs

 casting its arched shadow on the waters
                 by the waters

 a small room full of small schoolchildren

 beer, of course, who could
                 forget the beer

 not the Germans
                certainly not the Germans

 the senator thundered with
                oratorical excess in an age

                 of rhetorical excess

you walk from grave to grave 
                 to read the American Iliad

and the poet, must remember the poet,
                she couldn’t live with Vachel  too poor

 or without 

                so she died and was buried

all the stories all the histories all the sarcophagi
                 sing as they dance
                dance in the shadows

                dancing in the shadows

Bellefontaine Cemetery saw its first burial in April. 1850. In May, the cemetery was formally dedicated, with appropriate ceremonies and speeches, including one by the Rev. Truman Marcellus Post, a classical scholar, in which he called Bellefontaine “the shadow, the counterpart” of the city of St. Louis. The cemetery continues to operate today. and you can learn more about it at its web site. People buried there include William Clark, who gained fame in the Lewis & Clark expedition; James Eads, architect and builder of the Eads Bridge; Susan Blow, who founded the first kindergarten in the United States; Adolphus Busch, who founded the Busch brewing dynasty; U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton; and poet Sara Teasdale.

Photograph: Gravesite of Sara Teadsale Filsinger, Bellefontaine Cemetery

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About stlouisisapoem

We live in this poem called St. Louis, a poem we're still writing. It's about history, and art, and politics, and business, buildings and streets, rich and poor, and food (of course), and all of the other things that make this city what it is and what it will become. We publish poems about St. Louis, and you're invited to contribute via the comments to posts (for now, until we get our communications organized). Send us a link or an email address, and we'll respond. Help us write the poem that is St. Louis.
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