Posts Tagged ‘cemetery’

Walking to the Grave

Now, when I walk
through the cemetery,
I say aloud the names
of the dead as I pass.
Elma. Clara. Brooke. Millie.
Now I know the gift
of saying the name,
how the syllables invite
an honoring of the life.
Rose. Charles. Harry.
There is one gray stone
that simply says brother.
Brother, I say as I pass.
By the time I reach
the marker for my son,
the air is alive with names.
Finn, I say, as I kneel
in the dirt. Finn.
Sometimes, when I pray,
it’s the only word
I know how to say.

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            for Clea
We can go up there, she said,
nodding to the where the grave marker
was buried beneath feet of snow.
She knew it meant post holing
up over our knees. Uphill.
This, I thought, is true friendship.
So we wallowed through drifts
and laughed as we tripped.
And when we arrived at the place
where the ashes of my boy are buried,
I cried. And she did what the living can do—
she held me. She stood with me there
waist deep in snow and held me,
with her two strong arms, she held me.

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What did you want to hear
when you knelt at his grave?

After you spilled your own words
into the afternoon shade,
what did you think you might hear
when you listened?  

By now you know the gift of listening
is greater than the gift of sound.
By now you don’t expect his voice.
You know my voice by heart.

I am not the sound of loss,
but the sound of infinite presence,
which touches equally
the living and the dead.

And I am what holds you as you speak.
I hold you as you say nothing at all.
In your listening, you join me
in the most intimate of conversations.

You rise. Together, we walk to the gate
then through the gate,
and long after you’ve left the grave,
I am with you.

In fact, I am the one thing
that will never leave you.


How do we fall in love the world, even when it feels difficult? In this 20-minute poetry reading, I explore this in poetry, followed by a brief conversation and Q & R. Hosted by the wonderful Larry Robinson. If you want info about more monthly poetry readings, AND/OR if you want to be a part of Larry Robinson’s daily poetry list (sharing the poems of others) you can write him and ask to be included at Lrobpoet@sonic.net

Poems from the reading:
The Letter I Never Wrote to Pablo Neruda
Making Breakfast with Dolly
No Slam Dunk, But
Though I Knew Love Before
It Comes Down to This
For the Living
You Darkness by Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Robert Bly

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In the woods, in the dark
we stood amidst old gravestones,
their engravings mostly scrubbed by time.
And Jon played gong,
Robin played chimes
and Evie played bass recorder.
And Owl read of the wood,
Melissa spoke of good life
and I hummed and played the breath.
We spoke the names
of our beloveds who have left.
Some names were spoken
only in silence.
The half-moon joined our circle,
as if it, too, knew something
of loss. As if it were showing us
that sometimes what appears to be gone
is simply unseen.
We walked home in that half light.

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Her smile was clear sky, was green grass,
was slender stream of waterfall.
Her smile said, You are welcome here.
Her smile said, You are not alone.

She waved to me as I climbed the hill
to sit by the grave of my son and she offered
to water the flowers I’d brought from the garden.
Her offer was pink snapdragon, was orange marigold,
was golden calendula. Her offer said,
There are some things we can do.
Her offer said, I see you.

Thank you, I said. Thank you
 for taking care of this place.
I looked around at the trim lawn,
the lovely, well-cared for space
where we bring our dead.
She shrugged and smiled and said,
We love Finn, and backed away,
her right hand pressed to her heart,
her eyes embracing mine.

There are moments so flooded with tenderness
every wall around our heart collapses
from the beauty of it,
and we are left wet and trembling, like newborns.
There are moments when we are so naked
love enters us completely, shakes us from within
and wrecks us, and there,
in the rubble of our defenses
we fall so deeply in love with life,
with the goodness of people,
we are remade.

When I left, she blew me a kiss.
I caught it. Twelve hours later,
I still cradle that kiss in my hand.

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We weave through tombstones,
the spring grass soft beneath our feet.
Thick roar of wind charges the valley.
Our paths braid up the hill
as we feel into where we will bury
the ashes and bone matter
of the boy who no longer breathes.

We all quickly agree on a place.
“It’s beautiful,” I say,
and fall into tears,
broken by the reason we’re here
in this stunning graveyard
rung with aspen and waterfalls,
red cliffs and spruce.

I lie on my back where he will be,
my husband beside me,
our daughter nearby,
above us all blue sky and sun.
The earth is cold and hard,
and the spot feels right to my body,
this body that carried him,
this body still learning
how not to hold.

We cry until we don’t.
Until whatever is unbreakable inside us
rises through the brokenness.
We dust the earth off our clothes
and walk arm in arm out the gate
where our lives go on, devastated and whole,
where the boy is missing,
where the boy is as present
as the wind.

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This grave day when it seems

I cannot play, I do.

I go to the graveyard and find

someone who died on my birthday.

I sit at the small metal marker

and read poems about birth and death.

I sing “Another One Bites the Dust”

and dance in my bare feet.

And when the dog starts to scratch at the earth

and flings dirt all over my legs and lap,

I laugh at her great idea

and rub the dirt into my skin,

then cover myself in big handfuls of red dirt,

marking myself as dust.

Here, in the autumn sun

surrounded by tombstones

that have long since lost their names,

it’s so easy to remember

how short this life—

what a gift to be alive,

what a gift to be wrestled by chaos

and find myself still thirsty

for another day, another day.

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Tell me, I said

to the cemetery stone,

how long before

our names are

prayers only

the lichen

can speak?

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Past the grave of the baby girl,

past the grave of the beloved mother—

“we loved her,” it says in italic letters—

and past the grave with my birthday on it,

we find a tombstone greened in moss

with its names and dates long since lost.

The grass has nearly reclaimed the stone,

and we sit here together and talk for hours,

joyful expressions of dust as we laugh

and cry and remember just why

it is so damn sweet to be alive, to practice

what it means to love in the face of our impermanence.

All the leaves have left for the year,

but look at what remains—the chance

for sudden, immeasurable bliss

no matter what the season is.

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On a hill
in the sun
at the edge
of the grave
in the grass
let us meet
on the day
when the veils
are thin
the worlds—
and perhaps
the Aztec
will open
her fleshless jaw
so that all
the stars
fall out
as they did
so that we
might find them
each other’s words
and speak
of darkness
with syllables
of light.

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