They use a small John Deere backhoe now--
Each week new pyramids of red dirt
The first time it startled me--the growling machine, the fast-growing pile of clay.
As kids we'd known grave diggers at Trinity Place--
Our cement-ery, we'd called it, a real dead-end street, ha, ha, ha.
Those huffing, red-faced men cut rectangles with quiet spades,
shooed us from the edge of fascination--we'd fall, they'd say, all the way to China.
Sometimes before mourners arrived, we'd try out the folding chairs, the green awning--
Once Ronny clambered down an unwatched hole then couldn't get out--
The rest of us ran--we left him.
Who knew he'd be the first of us to die--freak blizzard, freak heart attack, shoveling snow--
Now, the sky over Mount Olive is busy with birds--
Coal cars rattlebang their way south on the CSX.
Everything's fringed in early spring, everything's turned up.
We make stories from markers to tell our lovers--
One for the handmade wood cross wrapped in tinsel gauds, others for the new bride,
the Civil War dead, then the epidemic with its many lambs, most gone to moss now.
The burying ground holds two centuries, and there's still room for more.
Remembrance--the work of this life, so ordinary, geometric
the comfort of grass, trees, sound--the pull of things below.
And who was first among those in somber suits to peer over the grave's edge
and discover a small boy in corrective shoes, so pale, so scared, so tired from reaching up?
- Leslie LaChance (from Apple Valley Review)