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Living by the Children’s Cemetery

Living by the Children’s Cemetery provides a profound answer to the poet’s own call for 'something sinister, something fragile, something Bessie Smith/ could sing.'-- Edward Hirsch

Living by the Children’s Cemetery

For weeks I’ve ignored a presence,
and faceless blue breath on the cellar windows.
But tonight beyond the yard,
moon-stained crosses quiver like
delicate antennae.
Before I climb into bed,
I press a hand to the window and feel the cold.

The moon’s stuck
in a milk bottle and ancient horse tack
hangs on the porch where my grandfather drank
while upstairs Edith screamed my mother
into this world.
Textbooks say I was there too,
         an incipient presence,
and I want to name that,
what that was. I want to name it
like the stones in the cemetery want to name
Where did we learn to surrender our children
to priests who bless them,
who lift them high
amid incense and smoke and take them
to meet the Holy of Holies.

Ants come out of the earth,
long coded helixes that carry away
what’s been lost in the dark.
They try to help me understand the cemetery’s work,
         how we must give up
what we cannot mend or keep.
Still, it hurts
like a fist clenched too long.
We must learn to lie flat,
to enter their darkness
with our hearts and our useless wings

Standing by these small graves in Garrison,
North Dakota
I want some kind of wisdom.
         And you do too,
you at the kitchen sink in Sioux Falls,
South Dakota,
in Billings, Montana and Caspar,
Wyoming. And you, up late in Vermont
and you in the black hills of Tennessee.
How do we accept the soil
that fills their mouths?
How do we ever go inside again?

Learning Italian

All of our friends are learning Italian.
They have no plan, no particular plan

to go to Italy, just a vague hope
like when I laid me down to sleep

and aimed at heaven. We’re at an age
when people travel, so many

places to go, France is attractive,
or Poland or if you came back

from China with a baby that would count.
Even riding a bicycle to and fro

in the cool shade, a booked tucked
under your arm, French or Polish

or Chinese is something, but most
of our friends have chosen Italian

which they practice diligently
at lunchtables where only Italian

may be spoken, "The weather is fine."
or "Please call the porter." In the evening,

on porches, they still practice,
"When is the train for Milan?"


I am looking for opportunities to read from Landscape with Silos. Let me hear from you! Dbbogen@aol.com