UNTO TARSHISH

In this place
there is a fatted,
sacrificial silence.
It is the large
Jewish Cemetery
nestling the road
where Maryland
and the District are loosely
stitched together.
It is a small plot
goldenrod dirt
outskirting Lisbon.

This ground is sacred
not for the blessing
of one who
has taken the tallit
of holiness.
The sanctity of this
ground leaches
from the simple pine
boxes that return
with the body
to the soil.

The stones, mostly simple
with neatly incised
Hebrew inscriptions
are all blank
to me, worn
smooth by memory
denied.

I place my ear
carefully to each, wanting
to hear a voice,
a fractured whisper
that will resonate
in the hollow spaces.

I pass by those
with shared names
for if he or she is here
each must share
the isolation
they willed me.
I look
at the faces
of passing mourners —
none resemble
the morning mirror.

I grow tired
of the search, sit
in the paltry shade
of the ricinus plant
knowing we both will
be gone by sundown.


First Appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005

LLANYSTUMDWY

The small church is tucked
alongside the narrow road,
its moss encrusted stones
bathed in the November sun.

The headstones in the churchyard
lean askew, sagging under
the weight of time.

The weeds sprout up
answering to a silent call.
We are here, they seem to say,
to reclaim our own,
and we shall do it
in our own time,
in our own way.

The sounds
of the rushing waters
of the bloated Dwyfor river
blanket those whose memories
fade from the stone monoliths.

The yew, trunk overgrown
with ivy, stands a sentinel
between those gone and the sheep
grazing the soccer field.
The church is silent, stolid
existing in that middle world
between indifference and ruin.

Back in the house, the cat
curls in the overstuffed chair
preening her paws and haunches.