“A cemetery is not abandoned as long as it is kept and preserved as a resting place for the dead with anything to indicate the existence of graves, or as long as it is known and recognized by the public as a graveyard. The fact that for some years no new interments have been made and that the graves have been neglected does not operate as an abandonment and authorize the desecration of the graves, where the bodies interred in a cemetery remain therein and the spot awakens sacred memories in living persons.“
Your mother’s sister is your aunt,
so your grandmother’s sister is your grandaunt.
My sister is your great grandaunt,
my great grandmother told me, as we
meandered a trail in a green tree tunnel.
When we came upon the copse,
I thought the journey had ended,
but she plunged in confidently.
Through the darkness, until finally
we came upon her grandmother’s gravesite,
buried with young children and soldiers,
all mine. All dying young in Civil War times.
I was 10 and this genealogical lure
hooked me firmly, so I snapped photos
and wrote down every family song
that she sang. Today, I’ve brought
my aged father; he’s long forgotten
the trip still etched bright in me.
I thought, fifty years later,
the place would surely be swallowed,
ten lonely graves in the middle of
transforming a corner of a cornfield to
exuberant, well-fed trees crowding
the narrowing clearing.
Someone has been before us,
planting tiny American flags on the soldiers’
I see my father’s
woebegone face as he stares at the tall
tree that has emerged from our
ancestor’s burial place, but I am elated.
I walk closer, see an ant scurrying up
the bark. Were this ant’s ancestors
living alongside mine? In our parallel
universes that have no space
for shared legends, I create one here.
“Hail, grandmothers,” I say
and it’s not clear
whether I’m speaking to the ants
or the trees or the expansive earth,
the bond we all share, invisible
but palpable once we pause
the kerfuffle of our daily lives
and give homage to the dinosaurs
from whom we’ve recycled.