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First Death In Nova Scotia

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Written by Elizabeth Bishop

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 In the cold, cold parlor
my mother laid out Arthur
beneath the chromographs:
Edward, Prince of Wales,
with Princess Alexandra,
and King George with Queen Mary.
Below them on the table stood a stuffed loon shot and stuffed by Uncle Arthur, Arthur's father.
Since Uncle Arthur fired a bullet into him, he hadn't said a word.
He kept his own counsel on his white, frozen lake, the marble-topped table.
His breast was deep and white, cold and caressable; his eyes were red glass, much to be desired.
"Come," said my mother, "Come and say good-bye to your little cousin Arthur.
" I was lifted up and given one lily of the valley to put in Arthur's hand.
Arthur's coffin was a little frosted cake, and the red-eyed loon eyed it from his white, frozen lake.
Arthur was very small.
He was all white, like a doll that hadn't been painted yet.
Jack Frost had started to paint him the way he always painted the Maple Leaf (Forever).
He had just begun on his hair, a few red strokes, and then Jack Frost had dropped the brush and left him white, forever.
The gracious royal couples were warm in red and ermine; their feet were well wrapped up in the ladies' ermine trains.
They invited Arthur to be the smallest page at court.
But how could Arthur go, clutching his tiny lily, with his eyes shut up so tight and the roads deep in snow?


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