On very dreary days I like to drive through the cemetery meandering among the stones until I find a freshly dug grave. I stop, under the vigilant eye of the caretaker and carefully place a cassette of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances or Smetana’s Die Moldau into the player. As the melodies spill forth I hope they lift the spirit of the resting, bringing them a moment of unabashed joy, a memory to carry into an eternity, a lingering riff, sweet as the juice of the strawberry trickling down the chin, a chocolate slowly melting on the tongue. Night will come soon enough bringing a darkness in which they can see their dreams take form and seep away to mingle in the void.
First appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review Vol. 26, No. 1 (2000) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006)
It was scrawled on the back of a grocery receipt, barely legible. Charles H. Boustead Tunnel, fryingpan river. The river is lower case, its capitals dangling by serifs in one of the tunnel grates that constricts the water’s flow.
Outside the full moon is ensnared in the gnarled, barren branches of the white birch. She struggles vainly to break free, but the maple wraps its limbs around her. It is only when she retreats into the earth, covers herself over, that the trees cede their grasp.
When Luna curls against you, is she chilled from the night sky, or does she reflect the warmth of the distant star? Does she press against the shredded satin, wrap herself in the fringe of your kittel? And when she tires of you, does she leave by the rotting, split pine boards through which you, bit by bit, return to the soil to nurture her captor?
I stand outside, shivering under a full January moon. Fading impressions of you are shunted into the tunnel of my memory. I never know where or when they will emerge, what they have gathered, what has been lost along the way. I hope for their return, regardless of form. The Boustead Tunnel carries about 54,000 acre feet of water annually from the river to the Turquoise Reservoir.
Go into the hills an bring back logs, straight, peel the bark and smooth them satin fibers, the main pole at least eight arms the cross no less than six. Lash them well so they will not yield under the weight of the body where you might hang. Do not speak to the shepherd, he will tell tales of what he claims he has seen on the hill but he cannot be trusted and speaks of his dreams of centurions standing over the freshly dug graves.
First appeared in Rain Dog Review Vol. 1, No. 4 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum Vol 32, No. 1 (2008)
I have never visited the grave of my mother, either of them, which seems most odd primarily to me. The mother I never knew until it was too late to know her is buried in Charleston, West Virginia a place i intend to visit, grave site included in the coming months, to see where my mitochondrial DNA was planted and grew into the odd shape that greets me in the morning mirror. The mother i knew so well, who could always find ways to frustrate me when I was certain she exhausted every possibility is buried next to my sister, placed there by my brother who couldn’t quite get the funeral together, at least not the one she would have appreciated, with the near famous all pump, never the right circumstances so into the ground she went. I will visit there too, someday perhaps, but helical gravity will always pull me to the Mountain State.
She wrapped him carefully in an old blanket and several sections of the Times and put him in the basket with the broken handle she found out behind the Safeway near the culvert that was home until the rains came. She placed him among the weeds and beer bottles, where the river’s smell licked the wicker, and she hoped he would be found quickly. She envisioned him at the right hand of Kings, holding forth on all manner of life and death, princes seeking his insight, hanging on his words. He would not be like others dying at the hand, whim of wealth. He was found a week later lodged against a grate at the intake of the power station and placed in a far corner of the city cemetery under a simple stone “Baby Doe.”
My mother no longer speaks to me. It is not that she has been dead two years, that passage would hardly be an impediment for her. I would like to think she has nothing left to say, having said it all so many times in the past. Some say we will see each other again in heaven, but it is unclear which, if either of us, will be there, and I don’t look forward to once again being a child who can do nothing quite right enough for her, yet again, and for eternity, this time.
When they lowered my grandmother’s casket into the sodden earth, there wan’t a dry eye, shoulder or leg, around. She would’ve laughed aloud, her children always too busy for a visit now soaked to the skin in a cold, windy downpour, all but me, the one she chose to conduct the service, the funeral director behind me with the oversize umbrella, ensuring the words of prayer and departure were dry enough to read, washed only by my tears, held back, unholdable, the clunk of the first shovel of dirt on the simple pine box still echoing.
He is bent over, walks with a shuffling stumble. He follows the path, inscribing it center or as close to it as he can get. He wants to say hello to those who would acknowledge him. He doesn’t understand why his mouth refuses to smile, refuses to form even the simplest of words. All he sees is her face, he sees it clearly when he walks each morning as they used to, and he will follow it until he sees it again the loamy soil they will share soon enough.