The Groundskeeper

The Copper’s widow down-cast is making that final stance
we do over our dead
with our feet parted
and shoulders rounded

I want to tell her she is too young, that she
has only begun to live, yet
my role is not one of the consoler.

I hope she remembers leaning into him
in bed, a time before the word cancer
shivered across her lips, before she nursed
him and prepared for his death.
Still, she’s here and the sod sucks
at her shoes where the grass parts like hair
and spurts a collar around his headstone.

And at what point do we stop
looking for reconciliation at the grave?
Is it once this boxed pattern in the earth
becomes a thin seam; a pocket
or perhaps an envelope?
The boundary diminished, the body taken.

This first month she comes
three times weekly gathering flowers
with her daughter across the meadow.
Her bouquets perish, unlike planted flowers
by the graves or the American flags
waving their signature of participation.

Walking back to the shed I hear the child
laugh in the plum tree, climb
down with something in her pocket.
Her mother calls, Emily,
and the child comes to the woman
in the sad, floppy hat. Emily sways
with an agile imagination, balancing a halo
on her head; one of the grave’s
permanent ornaments, a faded, plastic wreath.
Together, they cast a slant shadow
like the perched angels and crosses
in evening’s last pitch; dusk,
where time bends fixed shapes
and our memory becomes distorted.
The glossy tombstone stands like a door
with-out handle, or hinge,
its only passage, through the soil.