An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections

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