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Misha Lazarra: a poem

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.



Wood shavings.

Cemetery grass, freshly cut.

Misha Lazzara is an MFA candidate at North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared on, 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:

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