The sprawling, misplaced suburban
church at the corner has wide
black parking lots and an electronic
carillon. Cars go whizzing by with
windows closed, and I am the only one
to hear, working in these farmhouse
gardens. I prefer the bells of wrens.
We stand in snow, two aunts, my
mother and me, as the procession
approaches the small wet
opening, the undertaker in his long
black wool coat, then two
Dickens characters carrying shovels.
The undertaker gives a respectful eye
to my young aunt and she nods.
My grandmotherís miniature
thumbs, professionally swirled hair,
pained knees and all her own teeth,
everything in a jar, lowered
by one pair of hands, and the shovels
make stabs at the loose soil.
We go back in summer, my mother
and I, there are puffs of hydrangea,
and mildew on the leaves of ancient
lilacs, my mother remembering,
Everett, Elliott, Parke, Blair, there
the nurse that came to deliver
the stillborn, here the piano teacher.
Over a black stone etched COLE
she says, she told my mother
that each of us kids was
better than the one before. I ask
her, the oldest, how she knew.
She says, My mother told me.
I work in these gardens, bury
the scraps of my living, black
coffee grounds, apple seeds, cores
and fibers, fed to the decomposers,
stirred in to feed the roots.
The young lilac reaches toward
my bedroom window, the old lilac
leans against the shifting milk
house. The wrenís song stops
me, leads my eye to the tiny pocket
nest, back to my work. I go on
digging, hearing the dead,
the church bells play for no one.
I live with my daughter in the house my great-grandfather built in northeast Ohio.
Iím a graduate student in the English department at Youngstown State University and recipient of
YSUís Hare Award for poetry. My poems have been published or are forthcoming in Mid-America Poetry Review,
DMQ, Angle, Primavera, Versal, Poetry Midwest, YSUís Penguin Review and others.