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April 2014, vol 10, no 1

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Jeffery Harpeng

Frayed Flowers

to have lived so slow with the years in such a rush – with every labour and tender touch told in the gnarled arthritis of her hands – she cradles silk roses and peonies in the crook of her arm – we stake their plastic stems in the powdery earth – her fingers press a warm name on a wintery headstone – she has a sad and silent conversation with her first child – dead before I was born – gone sixty years and still as others stood before us we might stand a hundred years where my grandmother stands in black and white with her right hand resting on the headstone of her firstborn – she stands as if a child pressed to her side - she rests her hand on his head and ruffles his hair

we weigh nothing
on sacred ground       we fall
in and out of words
never say I am
already buried here

on an early anniversary, when I was the child who would press into my mother’s skirt – when my brother’s name was still fresh in the stone – when a line of palm trees stood outside the graveyard’s picket fence – what things I said to make the world mean what I saw – my mother says I’d call those palms ceme-trees – though they are long gone, obviously they stood guard

at times I am
no more than a
few brush strokes
the path uncertain
to where I am

my daughter’s youngest rakes gravel and dust on graves with her tiny hands – or she sits on a grave’s low wall, holds a corner post – grasps it like a steering wheel and begins to drive – against its measured inertia does the world begin to rev up – or is that just the shunt of a gust of wind

my granddaughter
picks frayed flowers
off another grave
while the sun in winter
blue proceeds so slow