Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Lady of Sorrow Cemetery

Graves dug with a ditch witch
in hard desert dirt, concrete slabs
poured soon after burial to keep
the ground from sinking under
the drenching rains. Teddy bears
tied to stone crosses
lie soaked after the monsoons.
Heart-shaped rock sunk in the ground,
whitewashed, with a name brushed
in thin black streaks,
splashed with mud now. Unreadable.

Try as they can, the living
will not stay wind, rain, sun, and dust
from smoothing granite and
whittling weather-treated wooden
pylons to sticks.
The living visit all day
to clean the grave
of a friend, mate or child.
They gather withered and brittle flowers,
rake up blown-in trash and beer bottles
thrown from the highway, and burn
it at the back in rusted metal drums.

Sometimes they adopt a grave
and show the same tenderness.
Each grave like a lawn or yard
shrine, with grilled fencing,
tulip garden, bamboo grove,
or inlaid brick in the form of a cross
and a seat under elms
to pray, relax, or tell stories in.

I come to view their care. The
love for the dead even after 80 years.
I feel the break with life is not so great
then, and the memories
and invisible presence
fill me with awe
as I speak with my own past.

(c) 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.


  1. nice...we have a great city cemetary here dates back hundreds of years...i like to go there and walk...some of them are pretty elaborate...the dead offer me a bit of their peace...and people come and go...

  2. This is lovely.  It reminds me of Recolleta (sp?) in Buenes Aires--a
    huge grid of mausoleums which people visit and tend--where they drink
    matte with lost family members.  Lovely close here.  K.

  3. when i was a teenager i spent lots of time in a cemetery near my parent's house, i always loved it there, sad, yes, but filled with love. much like your poem.

  4. Their names cover with mud...this brought about shocking sadness, but then you waltz us through tender clean-up, the love that survives beyond the dirt, the respect for the ones left untended...this was wonderful Charles! The description, the smooth transition from the forgotten to the remembered...just fantastic.

  5. I find this reverence for the dead most touching, Chazzy. You feel the break with life is not so great when you come to view... Love that. A thoughtful, beautifully executed poem.

  6. Charles, this is an extremely strong piece. You end the piece in awe, but that is how the entire piece moves. Great job. Thanks

  7. i usually go to the cemetery when i need a rest..when the world is too loud and i'm running like a hamster in a wheel... and there are many stories to find... and sometimes we see ourselves like in a mirror through what we see..great poem charles..

  8. This is wrought with so much care and tenderness--much like the graves themselves--I really enjoyed it--thoughtfully and beautifully executed!

  9. Full and what I can only call lush description of the usually sere and barren or ostentatiously gothic grave, making it indeed, a more human process and place, even if dug with a ditch witch--death is homely and familiar so. As a child, one of my first encounters with nature was helping my grandmother plant geraniums and water plants on relatives' graves--then off to feed the swans--it was all a treat for a green-starved inner city child. I sense that same feeling here in your poem. Fine work, as always, Charles.

  10. Beautifully written, tender, sad but lovely just the same...