Today is supposed to be an end of the road poem. I’ve written a lot of poems about specific roads, but they’re always about the motion, the travel–the Overseas Highway, US 50 in Nevada, etc. So I reached back into my memory and pulled out the cemetery roads that were everywhere in south Louisiana when I was a kid. We came across them all the time while preaching, and knew there was no point in driving down them because no one lived on the same road as the family plot. But we’d look, every so often. Much of this poem is taken from imagination and hearsay, though not the part about my granddad and uncle. That really happened.
_____ Cemetery Road
At the ends of these roads, branched
from converted family farm driveways,
always a family name, a plot, maybe
a chain link fence, wrought iron gate.
Little else on the highways between
gas station/post offices which claimed
the status of town–Sun, Bush, Tallisheek.
On All Souls’ Day the graves bright
with whitewash; on Easter, generations
picnic outside the fence. The youngest
hunt eggs, pick their names out from
the stones of their ancestors, roll
on the grass between cement caps.
There must be something concrete
about living with your dead. Before
Granddad died, he made his sons
promise to build the coffin by hand,
and they did. Uncle Tinker lay in it
to make sure he’d fit, was in his own
not long after from cancer. But neither
is buried in a family plot–I wouldn’t
know where to go see any of my
dear departed if I cared to try.
Let me be burned and cast to the wind,
or buried at sea, or returned to
enrich the earth. Let me become
ephemeral. No marker, no road.