1. HISTORICAL CEMETERY
My mother always mourned the childlessness
of her one brother for the simple fact
the family name would die with him, as if
she came from some unbroken royal line.
The baby boy who keeps my name alive
unbeknownst to her plays among the graves
of two-hundred-year-old strangers who’ve put
their hearts & souls into a copper beech
that shelters them from God’s own sky at last,
but in the meantime here below
the elements have cost them all their names.
Walking the rows of upright white
tablets wind & rain have erased
& restored to their original state
of blank slates, my gleeful son pats them each
on the head, as though he were a grown-up
& they small children inching up on him.
From where I stand, the page-shaped slabs
I momentarily darken with my shadow
as with my name appear
thin as the paper I must trust
to outlast flesh & blood, let alone stone.
2. GRAY AREA
My infant son haunts the cemetery
& plays peekaboo with stones white
as the blank faces of so many swimmers
trying to keep their heads above water.
Watching him disappear
behind a certain marker, I make out
his given name writ large: a boy his age
who, I read, “unfortunately drown’d
in infancy” & whose
poor father, middle-aged like me two short
centuries ago, followed him I see
to an early grave the next year. The shallow
letters cut in rock look the same
tattletale-gray as my own name the sun
once filled with shadows as fast as a child
who’d learned to write could trace it in the snow.
3. BREAKING THE ICE
Visiting the dead, my son walks on water
i.e., snow crusted with knife-edged
ice like the kind that almost took
my head off when I went sailing
into it on my Flexible
Flyer &, picking myself up
off the floor of the valley, came home blinded
by tears & blood. Toward sundown
the growing shadows of the tapered stones
point accusing fingers at me
standing tall there, as a boy small enough
to play hide-&-seek among them
skates across the glaring surface
I break with every step of my cold feet.