Hallow Hill

The hill was ghostly. Even before finding an old sign revealing its history as an early Christian burial site, I could sense the tension between life and death in the air that chilled my face. It was a place pulsing with potential, yet quiet and lonely as a sleeping giant. Insignificance and eternity confronted me as I felt at once my own smallness amidst the swirling mist and the faint-but-discernable presence of those sleeping beneath the grass and dirt.

And so, here is a poem.

On Hallow Hill the lichen grows
On trees far, far too young to know
That ‘neath their root-laced, grassy shroud
There lies in loneliness a crowd.

O’erhead crows caw continuous gloom
As doves pray peace for th’unseen tomb.
Such sombre birds of ghostly air,
The only pilgrims passing there—

There where the earth, a swollen bride,
Still nurses those that testified:
Expecting, under dust and leaves,
The birth toward which her babes believed.

Listen! She lulls with willow song:
“Though ages pass, it shan’t be long!”
It shan’t be long ’til these hills cry
As Light tears through their cloud-hung sky.

So tune to joy, you mournful dove!
As bones reknit themselves in love
To stretch, to stand—to kneel—toward
The One who wakes them by His Word.

Kirkyard Clan

Once again, a graveyard has inspired poetry. This time, it was the historic Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. It was once the post of a loyal dog (Greyfriar’s Bobby) and now is rumored to be haunted by a malevolent poltergeist. It also features several tombstones with names that JK Rowling used as Harry Potter characters! Needless to say, it is a place overflowing with creative inspiration…and wildflowers. Enjoy! 

“Kirkyard Clan”

.

Tombstones sprout among 

and tower over you 

But you care only for 

the shady homes they strew.

.
And though graves lie beneath 

the crumbling, grassy ground,

You care not for the chill

 but joy in fertile found. 

.

That ghostly wind that blows 

can’t scare with screaming howls;

You care not for wuth’ring, 

though larger stems it bows. 

.

Though sun but rarely shines- 

even he hides his gaze-

What you care for are clouds, 

which white, reflect your face. 

.

Toil not, nor spin in strife 

for that’s a desert path. 

You care for torrent rain 

that to you is a bath. 

.

Though haunts may rumor’d be 

and others leave at night.

You care for quiet gloom 

that leaves you to bloom bright. 

.

The daisies short still stand, 

a clan that does not care

For dark decay and death 

that withers others there.

The Gardener

Their forks clicked in unison against the empty plates as they set them down, finished. The utensils were not the only things that had clicked. The meal had been delicious, the girl lovely, the man courteous, the conversation interesting and free of the awkward pauses generally ended by dull commentaries on the weather or the quality of the wine. Altogether, it had been a perfectly smooth first date. Too smooth, the young woman was thinking. Surely something uncomfortable had to occur. It was a first date, after all. That thought alone- that the evening had been unnaturally comfortable- made the girl uncomfortable. She toyed with her fork as the man continued to talk about his work.

“The kids are great- I love working with them, but I hope one day to be a professor at the collegiate level, more research than teaching, you know?”

She nodded, tuning back into the conversation. What was his job again? Oh, right. According to the friend (well, more of an acquaintance) who had introduced them, he was a history teacher at the local high school. She was beginning to shake the feeling of discomfit caused by the very lack of discomfort when the man asked her a question that caused her to miss this imaginary anxiety.

“So,” he said, looking at her over his glasses, which seemed oddly hipster for an adult. But then, they had not been adults for long. “What did you say you do?”

She hadn’t. In fact, she had purposely been avoiding talk of her career and had hoped that by listening to the man- Andrew the history teacher- talk of his work, she would not be asked to describe hers.

“Sorry, what?” she blinked up at him, pretending not to have heard over the din of fellow diners. This would have been easier had there been any fellow diners, but in the odd perfection of their evening, they had dragged their meal out beyond all except a few men lingering at the bar.

“Where do you work? What do you do?”

“Oh,” she said. “I’m…a gardener…of sorts.”

“A gardener of sorts?” his eyes twinkled in amusement behind his spectacles.

“Yes.”

“Okay, so tell me more! What sort of plants do you grow? Who are your clients?”

She wished he would stop, but the genuine tone to his voice coaxed her into giving somewhat of an answer. It was the best she could come up with, anyway.

“I don’t much grow plants so much as I do tend them and, after a bit, dispose of them.”

“You’re that bad of a gardener that you dispose of plants instead of growing them?” Her eyes widened, but he chuckled and winked. “I’m kidding. I’m sure you’re wonderful.”

She blushed and her skin was so pale, she knew he could see it, but she was pleased. As much as she was reluctant to talk about it, she did think her job wonderful and she knew she was good at it.

“Thanks,” she chuckled in reply, relaxing a bit. “I meant that I dispose of the plants left by others- bouquets mostly, and sometimes miniature Christmas trees or potted shrubs. The ones I tend are thriving, I assure you.”

“People leave plants?”

“Yes,” she replied, then hastened to add, “But I do other work too- trimming hedges and trees and such. Lots of outdoor work, but I enjoy the fresh air. It makes me feel more alive.”

“Outdoors? You’re not exactly tan…” another wink so she knew he meant no offense.

“Well I mostly work at night. People don’t like the sight and sounds of grounds keeping work when they visit.”
“Fair enough. Sounds like your clients are high maintenance though- making you clean up after them and work at night. Do you at least like the people you work with?”

“Oh yes!” she clasped her hands together and instantly regretted her excited reply. Would he understand? She wondered. Best not to tell too much. She carefully arranged her hands in her lap, attempting to veil her enthusiasm.

“Well, tell me about them.”

“Oh…um…they’re pretty quiet. I don’t actually know very much about them aside from their names and dates-”

“Dates?”

“I mean birthdays and- er- ages.”

“Got it.”

“Anyway, they’re quiet, but I like to imagine things about them. I like to guess at their personalities, their backgrounds, who they loved and where they were born. It fascinates me to read their names and try to fill in the blanks with possible life stories. I mean, who knows what amazing lives these people had, what adventures and romances and tragedies. I have so many questions about them that I’ll probably never know the answers to, so I make them up.”

“Fascinating.”

“It really is.” Did she say too much? She feared she did.

“Why don’t you just ask them? Then you could have the answers.”

“I suppose I could, but I doubt it would do much good,” she said, her eyes were twinkling too now.

“Alright then…why not?”

“No reason…” she fiddled with her fork again. He watched her until she could feel her cheeks burning. Maybe she should just tell…it was nothing to be ashamed of. It was just that all of the men before him had found it a little, well, unsavory that an educated, pretty, young woman would choose her line of work and enjoy it more than the countless dull desk jobs she had been offered. Well, she could survive another man not calling back. What she could not survive was another date of evading questions and vague answers. Her work kept her occupied in the evenings anyway.

“Fine,” she sighed. “I can’t ask them because…they’re dead.”

“Pardon?”

“I’m the sole groundskeeper of a graveyard. Two, actually. Olive Grove and St. George’s.”

She let her fork click down at the end of her sentence and refused to look up at him. She’d seen the mixture of surprise and distaste on enough faces and had no interest in seeing it replayed in the brown eyes behind their glasses.

“Well then,” he said after an eternal moment. “Who is your favorite person at work? Any particularly fascinating epitaphs? What’s the oldest date on any tombstone?”

She sneaked a peek up at this odd Andrew the aspiring history professor. As his eyes met hers, she saw that the spark of genuine interest had not died. She savored this moment, for all traces of discomfort had vanished, buried in the past. As he asked and she freely answered, neither had felt more alive.

Graveyard Library

Upon finishing up my finals and juries today, I found my mind in a muddle, so I did the natural thing: I went exploring. In doing such, I happened upon a cemetery and spent a great deal of time wandering and wondering. To any outside observer, I was just another a college girl in an ugly Christmas sweater creeping around for no apparent reason, but really, I was researching. After all, one can learn- or at least imagine- so many things in graveyards, most of which are, surprisingly, more poignant than frightening. And, as many writers would agree, inspiration is always to be found in such places. For example…

 

Graveyard Library

I went walking through a library.

Well, a graveyard actually.

But both are full of tales,

And wandering down the aisles- or trails-

I read the spines of leather-bound tomes,

Or, rather, faded tombstones.

Between the lines (or dates)

I am left to guess the fates

Of the characters once living.

 

Over here on my left,

Paule Walde lays at rest.

But why so apart from his wife?

Marie Walde is right there

Though it seems quite unfair.

Where their stories separate in life?

.

Susie Harlem “mother”

And beside her another,

With a stone more elaborate than she.

Was this other loved better

Or simply loved richer?

How small Susie’s script seems to be.

.

And Shirley Ann Southern

Whose time came too sudden,

Plucked like the daisies that bloom here.

She stayed only a day,

In 1940 May.

How sad yet sweet this short page dear.

.

Shirley’s would-be playmate

Naps a few yards away.

Beneath a lone fragile sapling.

Its leaves laugh in the wind

But cannot grief amend.

A short poem, barely a scribbling.

.

Then James of Scotland and

Janine of Switzerland-

Only a marriage date printed.

Why no mention of death?

Do they yet use their breath,

To write a love uncompleted?

.

Then there’s a poor sister

And as she’s the elder,

Waits for her sibling patiently.

But the girl above ground

Tired of hand-me-downs,

Will finish her sequel separately.

.

Miss Charlotte was likely

The town’s brightest beauty.

For without fail as the years pass,

Bonny blue wildflowers

Same as those eyes of hers,

Peak up from the parchment of grass.

.

Strange indeed it might seem

Of all places to dream,

Libraries and graveyards are best.

But both only will grow

As time in its course flows.

And beneath covers and earth

Lies the past.