Student Question

In "Easter Morning," what does A. R. Ammons mean by "the grave will not heal"?

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A. R. Ammons's "Easter Morning" can be read on several levels. Taken at its most elemental level, it is a poem of regret over choices made and opportunities lost. The writer laments that the act of choosing closes off other possibilities, and he mourns these lives and paths that must remain forever unexplored. The other paths that he could have taken will never come to be. They will not give rise to other lives or experiences he might have had, had he chosen differently. They are dead forever.

Importantly, the poem is titled "Easter Morning." Easter commemorates and celebrates the Jesus's resurrection, as he came back to life after his crucifixion. However, unlike the event celebrated during the Easter holiday, the poet’s other lives will never be resurrected. He will never have the chance to live them. He tells us that in the first lines of the poem:

I have a life that did not become,
that turned aside and stopped,

If, as a young man, he decided to become a doctor, he will never have the chance to go back in time and live his life as a sculptor, for example. Thus, when the poet says, “the grave will not heal,” he means that the other lives are dead and will never come back from death. There is no resurrection from the grave for the lives he may have lived had he pursued other choices.

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