Webb Cemetery: Class Trip – May 2002

a hawk circles the tree tops
the notes of a flute
bright tufts of sound among
lines and young leaves of poplar

below
Tam sits head down
eyes on paper
looking for words
Jared stretches amid
a splatter of sunlight
Corey on the edge of the path
intent

I wonder at the stillness
dead leaves huddle among
young green ones
that thrust from the earth
like soft arrows
a boy’s sneaker rubs among them
the leaves crumbling and
all around us
the stones

Leah, Lavinia, Elvira, Rosendal
a small white stone carved with the letters MMG
initials that shed their meaning long ago
a secret now
a mystery

sitting among the stones
Jennifer, Robert, James, Joshua
the names go on and on
I’ve lost so many already
can’t even remember the names
of all the students I’ve taught

the boys in blue shirts and
baseball caps lean in and point
scratch their heads, whisper
a bird keeps chirping and I
turn over in the crisp dead leaves
Brendan reaches up
touches the thin slivers of
green needle above his head
and a child calls insistently
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy

my mother died
I have not been back to see the stone
my mother         not in that stone
but in my mind
the steam rises
potatoes roil in the water
small droplets condense
running down the window
outside she balances
a basket of clothes on the rail
hands reaching up

Justin wanders over
asks me a question
I say No my voice getting stern but I think
why do I say No
when I should be saying Yes
why  do I say be still
when I should be saying
Take your restlessness and rise with it
until you  feel the soft
feather of the wind push your hair aside
until you see shadows of willow branches
wavering in the grass

I should say
Yes Yes Yes        move         do it all
before the names fade from your mind
before your mother’s voice slips away
a thin stream of water
among dry stones
before the hawk circles again
above the trees

reach out and touch the names
trace them with fingers
as soft as the earth

Leah, Lavinia, Elvira,
Rosendal

published in:
Wolf Moon Journal
May/June 2007

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