Cemetery Songs

“In Pobiddy, Georgia what we are doing is reading the strange
and wonderful names of the dead.”
Mary Oliver

She sometimes accompanied me

to the cemetery, vast with its flat markers,

           flat to avoid

                cluttering the vast sky here,

she four-years-old,

    wandering from name to name to name,

                each with dates 

           pinned down forever

                       within brackets,

piping, “Oh! How sad!” …. the next the same

   and again the same.

I rarely noticed others than my own there

           except once,

       as she and I  drove away.

 A young girl knelt beside a mound 

          of disturbed soil, praying,

      or so it seemed …  not raising her head

to the grave-surrounding

            white picket fence

                     filled with teddy bears.

My little one was indiscriminant 

             in her mourning, and my task

  of coaxing her back to our busy world

                was easy, 

                         where many sorrows 

                   awaited her, too. 

Even the kneeling one 

                eventually left. 

That is what the living do. We seldom,

   unless we have to, stay there

       for very long. 

Carol Hamilton