Among the Dead

In an English country churchyard I walked among the graves,

marveling at the green of the hills, the gold of the sun

on a bright September day.

Around me were the dead; some laid in darkness

beneath headstones erased by weather and by time,

others under moss-stained monuments bearing their names and stories:

Eliza who died when she was twenty-one, and a baby of thirteen months,

and fathers, mothers, and children, farm workers, housewives and clergy.

The wind in tall pines muffled the busy sounds of traffic on the M5,

and beyond the branches a microwave tower stretched skyward where a plane

circled for landing at Bristol airport.

 

I remembered how my cousin told me

of the way the dead were stacked in graves

in old English cemeteries, one on top of the other

until there was barely dirt to cover them; and how flowers

were spread over the newly buried to kill the stench.

 

Beyond the churchyard hedge chickens clucked, and I smelled

cows and pigs and manure and the wind blew through my hair

sending it wildly alive around my head, covering my face,

tangling strands with pine boughs, leaving a trace of me,

the stranger, the interloper from another time and place,

to mix my DNA with the long-dead of Long Ashton, UK.

 

It was almost a year ago that I was there,

uncertain why I had come and why I noted the names

of people unknown and unconnected to me or mine,

my feet comfortable on old soil beside a stone church.

I remember the sudden swell of organ music that drew me

to the door and inside vaulted walls to where

a young black boy sat alone, playing a hymn I did not know.

My eyes met his and in that glance I felt

the ebb and flow of history, of time:

the graves, the wind, the church, me,

and this boy celebrating life with music

among the listening dead.

 

 

 

 

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About grannysu

storyteller, writer, poet, gardener, countrywoman
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One Response to Among the Dead

  1. Libby says:

    Lovely nostalgic poem.

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