Hart Island, Easter 2020

a hymn

Grace Dow
1 min readApr 14, 2020


There’s an island in New York where they lay the dead to rest,
those unclaimed deceased whose coffins stack three-deep within a trench.
Easter weekend, how they dig. Lay the bodies in their tombs.
Hospitals like Christmas inns, no ventilators and no rooms.

You’ve heard it called a potter’s field, a pauper’s or a “common” grave
(the “common” of the uncouth poor, the stranger, criminal, or slave).
These fields are nothing new, I know. The indigent will always die.
The truly “common” thing being how no one ever bats an eye.

Statistics speak of “curves” and “spikes,” but Hart’s Island is full of holes.
Not just the graves, the absences, people with lives and selves and souls.
I cannot make my peace with this. I mourn the now-gone “least of these.”
You plead to return to what was. I cannot, cannot make my peace.

I know Death’s not the victor here. We know Death lost its mighty sting.
For Christ laid low did not stay down, and Easter dawn arrives like spring.
But there’s an island in New York. The trench grows bigger every day.
So celebrate, and hope, and pray, but do not cast your eyes away.