This is the somewhere
Reduced to the basics:
Rolling mills, rocks, running
Water, burdocks, trees living and dead. (1)
Somewhere the dead
are buried under humps of dirt, somewhere
a white cross perches with faded plastic flowers run
over on the highway by drivers who will rush to get
somewhere unimportant. A basic
necessity of burial: warm landscape
soft enough to dig. We walk the land, scope
out our future with planted trees, no dead
ancestors among us. Basic
survival skills are burdock roots, some
flower stalks harvested before they get
to bloom. Tree bark stripped off as runners
to make canoes, stone faces stare at us from the bank. We run
Some day we will elope to a new place, get
dressed in red and tie ourselves to trees. The dead
and living surround us. Somewhere
in our pockets lie changes. BASIC
programs run on a green screen. Basic
codes run all life forms. Somewhere someone runs
deep into the forest. Ferns unfold. Some ask where
they are but we see another landscape
appear on the screen. Death
sleeps under down covers. No graveyards to get
creepy with. Graves are fine and private, we get
consolation in the land of Elysian, a basic
right of passage with manicured lawns, the dead
no longer gone but sweetly singing under running
water, weeping willows, the statuary landscape
attracting tourists with guidebooks, draped urns, winged cherubs, somewhere
over the rainbow death got lost.
This is the somewhere we exit, back to basics.
Run to the stonecutter, chisel our own mortality.
1 – opening stanza quote is verbatim from “Daybooks 1,” Two Headed Poems, Margaret Atwood 1978.
photo: Burdocks Arctium minus
I started this sestina on Wed in our sestina class when I had students write a sestina using a line or first stanza of another poet's poem. James Cummins (one of my favorite sestina troubadours) gave me the idea for this with his poem #22 from his book "The Whole Truth." The last three lines of the sixth stanza are also celebrations of Walt Whitman's view of cemeteries, from his biography.