Earlier in the day, I had the not wholly original thought that writing only poetry might reinforce one's isolation and self-absorption. Poetry is a summoning of beauty or truth. It requires quiet contemplation and space to grow. Fiction, on the other hand, forces the writer into the heads of other people. Fiction is, by necessity, a reaching out.
Cemeteries are that way, too. The people there are real. Or they were real. Now they're something in between. "Beyond the sunset," as so many of the inscriptions put it.
I like visiting cemeteries. Particularly when I'm feeling tired of myself. Considering other people's lives--wondering who they were and whom they loved--isn't so much sad as it is engaging and oddly uplifting. (Except when I run across a child's grave. Damn.)
I like reading the names. I like the specificity of the dates of birth and death, bookends to a lifetime filled with stories. I like seeing the remembrances left, graveside, from those committed to loving in death as well as they did in life. Usually, these consist of flowers. Maybe a flag or figurine. Even wind chimes, on occasion.
But this small, rural cemetery was something else.
The graves here were positively bustling with remembrances.
Take a look:
Solar lights, for the darkest nights.
This child lived for two months.
17 years later, she's still missed.
I bet this lady liked dolphins.
She must have been a gardener.
Cardinals and butterflies and feasts of flowers.
This one made me smile.
A farmer, you think?
Fresh, but not too fresh.
Dead flowers. Well-worn hat. Sad.
The first gravestone inscription to ever make me laugh.
The front reads:
"Here lies atheist Bob Donohoe.
All dressed up and no place to go.
And his ever loving wife
The back says:
"Rest in peace Mom and Dad.
We know you are together in Heaven.
Well, this should be interesting."
How can any poet beat that?
I don't want to be buried. I want to be cremated and grow back as a tree, because dammit, I am a poet and an atheist (like Bob here) and I want something of myself to endure after I'm gone. But there is something deeply touching in how committed these mourners are to honoring (and maybe comforting?) their dead. Ultimately, it's for themselves, I suppose. A tangible releasing of the love that no longer has a place to call home.
I could feel it pulsing here.