"Veterans' Cemetery" was composed for an event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City celebrating the 60th anniversary of the literary journal The Hudson Review. The event was part of the Guggenheim's Works and Process series and included not only musical settings of poems by Dana Gioia, but readings and interviews with the poet as well.
"Veterans' Cemetery" was published in Gioia's volume The Gods of Winter in 1991.
by Dana Gioia
The ceremonies of the day have ceased,
Abandoned to the ragged crow's parade.
The flags unravel in the caterpillar's feast.
The wreaths collapse onto the stones they shade.
How quietly doves gather by the gate
Like souls who have no heaven and no hell.
The patient grass reclaims its lost estate
Where one stone angel stands as sentinel.
The voices whispering in the burning leaves,
Faint and inhuman, what can they desire
When every season feeds upon the past,
And summer's green ignites the autumn's fire?
The afternoon's a single thread of light
Sewn through the tatters of a leafless willow,
As one by one the branches fade from sight,
And time curls up like paper turning yellow.