Who Will Mow the Cemetery Now That They're Gone?
Is wisdom getting comfortable with cobwebs
in the barn? Elephantine wolf spiders
spinning homes in rusted combines. With
finding the smallest kittens frozen
in early-frost fall weather?
Eating whole beetles
wedged in ripe blackberries.
My grandparents' house
in forgotten frames. But
what makes a home is warm bodies –
jarred strawberries stunted and grey
slick with junket served on stale angel food cake.
A ghost, I'm told. A mouse, I think.
Do not leave little things lying around, they say. They'll disappear and slip away. Covered with one hundred years
of floral paper so that the walls are padded, soft –
absorbing sounds into silences
of past Christmases and games of croquet
wickets rusted in the rain.
I won't become this! I whisper into the walls,
not quite insolent over loud polka music,
the only station. Stripping off mouldy paper
layer by layer. Anticipating shiplap underneath.
Old and wise? My sister asks, drunk off plastic champagne grapes,
but I ignore her. Can't hear her
over the sound of ancient footfall
running through the hallway upstairs.
Over well water dripping mineral, orange
from the broken faucet. Over the clock chimes
incessant at the witching hour,
announcing each second after they passed.
Sold to seasonal workers
called in to help the farmers farm
because the old are no longer here
to mow that church cemetery,
residents now. Or to ring the steeple bells
decommissioned, melted into what?
So, for anything departed
I crawl on all fours to search
for gaps in the wallpaper big enough for a mouse.
I wander to the shed. Off limits as a child.
Broken morning light slants
through the single pane of missing glass.
We can't leave this no-horse town
without car keys, missing now.
We won't be back to mow the grass – we don't
speak this aloud – it's communicated in looks. When
I pull open that shed door, it smells like a grandfather.
Cemetery grass, freshly cut.
Misha Lazzara is an MFA candidate at North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared on poets.org, in Entropy and frak/ture journal and is forthcoming in more. She was the winner of the Academy of American Poets University Prize 2020 at NCSU. You can find more of her writing here: mishalazzara.com