Posts Tagged ‘labor day’

with enormous thanks to Kristen
In this story, the grave keeper
is a woman named Kristen.
She plants grass seed
where soils have been disturbed.
She pulls weeds by the roots
instead of poisoning them.
She learns the birthdays of the dead.
When a mother comes to sit
by her child’s tombstone,
the grave keeper gives her space,
but as the mother leaves,
she offers her a quiet smile, a hug.
Kristen knows the name of the child.
In this story, when the mother
leaves the graveyard,
dead flowers in her hands,
she is filled with no less grief,
but there is something generous
alive in her now, too,
soft as the new grass that thrives
around her son’s headstone,
loving as the grave keeper’s voice
when she whispered, Happy Birthday.
When the mother tells this story,
she weeps every time.
It’s not for sorrow
tears slip from her eyes.

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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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written after The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

–Ecclesiastes 3, 1-2


Bless those who attune to ripening,

those who hoist baskets, who wield


hoes, pitchforks. Bless those who

cut and stack and carry. Bless those


who pick and gather and sort. Meanwhile,

all around them, others play and lounge,


engage in callous sport. But bless those

who notice the work to be done


and do it. Bless those who feel

the sweet press of days and allow


the hours to avail them. Bless those

who sense the fullness of time,


who say yes to the moment

and rise to meet it.


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