The Cemetery

Perhaps it is the stillness
and the quiet
that drew your mother here,
the stillness of rows upon rows
of hundred year old grave stones,
the quiet of the dead.

On sunny days
she packed you in your stroller,
walked the half mile from home
down the narrow country road
to where the stonewall runs
unbroken but for a small
wrought-iron gate.

She strolled inside
and patrolled the grass-grown lanes
between each row of monuments,
stopping here and there
to read a name or inscription,
sometimes speaking the words out loud
as if the stones had voices.

From where you sat
all you saw were
large stone slabs,
some standing straight and square,
some pointed at the top,
some branching in the middle
to form a cross.

Cold grey
and moldy white,
some were black
and smooth as glass;
in these you saw your face
floating by,
and mother's legs
moving beneath her sun dress.

In addition to the soft
echoes of footsteps
that followed mother's shoes,
there came the squeak of the stroller,
the rattling of its wheels,
and your mother singing lullabies
to pass the time,
but there was more.

Sometimes the face reflected
in the stone was not your own,
and the echoes
were more like whispers
calling out your name;
your mother strolled along
as if she didn't notice,
her shadow growing thinner
with each day that passed.

And as you grew—
the stroller left behind for sneakers,
chasing after mother's shadow
as she played peek-a-boo;
the rows of stones a maze,
the grass-draped crypt a picnic place;
waving to the faces and giggling
as their voices tickled your ears—
this place became
a home away from home.

And when your mother died
one bright sunny day,
her pale thin face still as stone,
her ear pressed to the ground
as if hearing for the first time
the voices you always knew were there,
you sat beside her
singing lullabies,
gently brushing back
her brittle hair
with dirt-stained fingers.

A fresh grave soft as peat
became Mother's final resting place,
but she was only sleeping;
the following day
she chased you through the rows of stone
and giggled like the others,
so happy
her feet barely touched the ground.

And though the sound
of a speeding car
still frightens you,
and mother trembles
when she recalls the awful
screeching violence of that
day things changed forever,
there can only be
good memories from now on

—Kurt Newton