Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Weight of Graveyard Earth

Come see us
at the site of the massacre

We old men and ghosts,
we plain, pale cheeked
women with eyes as
blank as steel bearings,
we listless children lying
with bodies limp against
the ground, studying the
dirt beneath our fingernails.

Come see us
at the site of the massacre

We who have suffered the
years and days of forgetfulness,
in the eyes of others,
we who are not denied, and
yet not acknowledged,
we who feel uneasy with the
strangers who move into these
crumbling neighborhoods, and
their foreign music, and how
they think we are strange and
of little consequence, and how
all the things we remember
fondly are long gone.

Come see us
at the site of the massacre

We whose job it is to carry these
thoughts down the generations,
burdensome as they may be, so
morose and so telling of the
thin veil between society and
madness, we whose stories
are burned black against the
skin like brands, and even we
grow tired of ourselves, and
the younger ones try
unsuccessfully to forget,
but nonetheless carry that
biblical weight unto the
future’s gaping maw.

Come see us
at the site of the massacre

We many hollow, uneven places
upon the ground, hidden by
taller grass, these hummocks
where the buried bodies gave
way, their space subsiding
under the strain of time and
the weight of graveyard earth,
we mutterers on dark nights,
we who survived and did not,
both to haunt long days and
nights with the curse of
recollection, always broken
for innocence.

Come see us
at the site of the massacre

4 comments:

Bill said...

I found myself thinking of sitting on someone's porch as I read this... with them telling tales of the 'old neighborhood' and how things once were... and wondering when that change took place, when the first of their friends moved... signaling the onset of the 'massacre' of their 'space'..

Firehawk said...

Bill,

There's certainly an element of "oral history" in this one. I figured people could take this one in two ways, literally, or figuratively. It seems you've taken it in the latter way, which is great with me. I'm not altogether sure which way I took it as I wrote the poem. Maybe both, since poets are allowed to cheat that way.

Take it easy.

MB said...

I thought of times I've spent in cemeteries, wandering and looking, thinking about the people who once lived, and what their stories were. One small graveyard I found out in the hills had stones that made it clear some sort of epidemic had cleared out entire families. Tough and tragic. This poem has a darker edge, though, it seems.

Firehawk said...

MB,

Yes, a darker edge. That's a good way to put it. Thanks for coming over.

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