An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • I Find Joy In the Cemetery Trees

    I find joy in the cemetery trees.
    Their roots are in our hearts.
    In their leaves the soul
    of another century is in ascension.
    I hear the rustling of their branches
    and watch the exhausted laborers
    from the Burgreen Construction Company
    sit down in the shade,
    unwrapping their ham and salami
    and popping open their thermoses.
    Apparently, they too are enamored
    of the hickory and willow
    at the edge of our cemetery.
    They are stretching twine, building a wall
    as though this could be contained.
    Probably they do not think
    of our grandmothers who are pierced,
    and probably do not want
    to hear about Thomas Hardy,
    who, if I remember, has been dead
    longer than they have been alive,
    And who gave to the leaves of one yew
    the names of his own dead. Anyway
    the only spirits I can call in this place
    are the stench of a possum
    suppurating in secret weeds
    and the flies, who are marvelous
    because their appetite is our revulsion.
    Let the laborers go on. Right now
    I wish I could admire the trees simply
    for their architecture. All winter
    the dying have set their tables
    and now they are almost as black
    as the profound waters off Guam.
    A few minutes ago, when they started
    in a slight breeze off the lake,
    the many and patient sails,
    I could see in those motions
    a little of the world that owns me —
    and that I cannot understand —
    rise in its indifferent passion.

     

    Published in Salvation Blues: One Hundred Poems, 1985-2005 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 8-9.

    Published: 22 January 2009
    © 2009 Rodney Jones and Southern Spaces