“Leaves on the Capitol Grass,” by James Dawson


Leaves on the Capitol Grass

Sons of a young land prematurely old,
Gone grey about the hills, stagnant of air,
We walk the prim lots in the growing cold
And comb the brown leaves from the land’s dead hairs,
We watch the old men pass, folding their coats
About their greying necks; we see them pass,
Coughing a little in their drying throats,
Parking their buicks by the aged grass.
Old men, we see you, we who rake the leaves,
Who count the dried leaf-veins in every one,
We know the young land ages now and grieves,
Who see you passing when your day is done.
What does it matter what we think of you?
The leaves are dead. The land is dying too.

from Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry, edited by Ann Winslow
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935

Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry provides this short biography of Dawson:

James Dawson was born in New Bern, North Carolina, July 1, 1910. He received an A. B. degree at the University of North Carolina and is now a graduate student at Georgetown University. In the intervals of securing an education he has been a printer’s devil, a sailor, a chain-carrier for surveyors, and a teller in a country bank.

From a St. Andrew’s Society newsletter from 1963, we learn that he served in the Navy in World War Two, and went on to become an advertising and P.R. executive. His four poems in Trial Balances: An Anthology Of New Poetry appear to be the sum of his published work.

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