the graveyard shift

cemetery1.jpg

yesterday
lindsey took herself to a cemetery
and pondered life in its beginnings and endings,
and
that got me
thinking and remembering.
cemeteries,
you see,
are my all-time favorite place to go.

whenever i get lost,
foggy,
or otherwise
kerflunky,
i take myself to a cemetery
and not once,
not a single time,
have i failed to find remedy.

in cemeteries,
i can pull off
my masks and armor,
and lay them down
alongside all the selves
i am not.
there is such relief in
just being me.
nobody to impress,
cajole,
entertain,
feed,
persuade.
in cemeteries,
i can ask questions
and surprise myself
by coming up with
the answers.

tombstone3.jpg

cemeteries
were affordable places to take young chiclets
to learn about multiple-digit math functions,
spelling,
history,
art, and
various and sundry other important things.
with no more research
than the information readily available on tombstones,
we’d generously, willingly resurrect
and grant second lives on the spot
through character sketches and
other products of our
imagination.

gravemarkerdedication.jpg

a few weeks ago,
i attended a grave marker dedication
conducted in a cemetery i played in as a child.
it was an impressive ceremony
to mark the grave of
an american revolutionary patriot.
men dressed in revolutionary garb,
women wore hats and gloves,
and we all showed respect
with our words,
our salutes and curtsies,
our presence.

one woman completely
forgot her upbringing
and stepped right on a grave.
when it surprised us all by caving in,
she found herself acting out the phrase
“one foot in the grave”.

tombstones2.jpg

years ago when my great aunt rene died,
my husband and i
found ourselves in the cemetery
at midnight
in the rain
pulling weeds
in the family plot
to prevent public humiliation
at the upcoming graveside ceremony.

carefully avoiding the
waiting hole in the ground,
we set to work on aunt lucy’s grave,
(she was aunt rene’s sister.)
(aunt rene got all the fun and nice.)
anyway,
bless goodness
if the lucy didn’t
behave in death
just as she did in life:
she held on to her weeds
with,
well,
a death grip.

~

because it was
tombstone-deep in snow
the january i graduated
from graduate school
in vermont,
i took my mother,
daughter,
and teenage nephew
back one summer
to visit
hope cemetery.

.

i discovered it one semester
when caryn mirriam-goldberg,
my faculty advisor-turned-friend,
(also the current poet laureate of kansas,
i’ll have you know)
took a small group of us there
to write.

~

shoot, i don’t find cemeteries
sad,
morose
places
at all.

quite the contrary.

yes, i highly recommend cemeteries
when you want
or when you need to
reflect
or write
or ruminate
or remember
or even howl.

with laughter, silly:

cemetery2.jpg

5 Comments

  1. susanreep

    Yes, I love cemeteries. I love unraveling the history. Every year I go to a Hispanic cemetery near us on Dia de los Muertos and just soak in all the love and togetherness. Cemeteries are places to find answers. Great post.

  2. Julie Daley

    “in cemeteries,
    i can pull off
    my masks and armor,
    and lay them down
    alongside all the selves
    i am not.”
    Now that's a pretty great reason to like cemeteries, I would say.
    Love this one, Ms. Jeanne.
    Love you, too, darling.

  3. mrsmediocrity

    Oh, I love, love, love this one…and me, too! There was a cemetery a block from the house where I grew up and I can't tell you how many teenage angst filled hours I spent there…

  4. quiltdivajulie

    I can't tell you how many lunch hours are spent in the huge cemetery near my office – quiet and solitude and magnificent trees, sky and clouds and silence (broken only by an occasional bagpiper or bird). Such an antidote for the interior of the law office where I work… for so many deeply felt reasons.

    Beautiful, wonderful post!

  5. AlanaSheeren

    My favorite cemeteries are in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada – the one the old gold miners are buried in, and somewhere in France where my 14 year old breath was taken away by rows and rows and rows of white crosses. Thank you for bringing the memories back. And for your lovely writing. Sigh.

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