I. Père Lachaise
Funny how graffiti never pulses underneath your palms,
even if it is red,
even if it does look like blood,
even if it does look like letters who have forgotten their boundaries
and have risen up like fresh, city welts on this skin of concrete. Palms prone
on the stone, you wish for a heartbeat beneath it
and yet, you find none. The poet is still
breathing: but not here. Mime
the curtain falling to cloak a greasepaint face
with the flutter of bare hands. Peel back the rain, and you might hear
a piano tiptoeing past your ears.
II. The Garden Tomb
I might have better luck
scrubbing the stone bare with my own skin: I’d only find
my own requiem left in the dirt. The legend of money
and a borrowed tomb still jingle in my ears, and I wonder:
how many chromosomes does perfect blood have – is it
twenty three for the love of a mother, or plus one
for an invisible crown worn into the skin just above
the brow? Someone is playing a sitar, droning
one wet note in multiplicities onto the open mouth of the
hewn rock before me. No hints, but a lopsided pair of eyes
wink in my direction.
III. National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona
There is one famous person turning
bone to stone beneath my feet: but it’s not
you. He arrived here before you did, making a
entry that would have been completely quiet except for
the twenty-one gun standard issue salute earmarked
for every man or woman once clad in helmet and boot
for the sake of elected king and this ragtag quilt of a
country. Did you get one of those too, Dad? I wonder who got
your flag, and if it’s sleeping, body folded, on top of
someone’s dresser or mantle.
You were obsessed with building impossible motor engines
out of so many discarded parts. I am obsessed,
too. With stone. With men like giant trees falling, so much
dead wood collapsing and shedding life in the forest. With
names and dates, entries and exits. I don’t know
what the guns sounded like on the day they lowered
you into the ground: but I do know
the rain. And I know that with or without me,
the green succulent barrels around your tombstone will drink it in,
guarding their bloated bellies with ten million spines like tiny swords
around their waists. They, too, are obsessed
with the rain.
© 2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #39: The Bucket List. We were advised to think of some things on our bucket lists (or to make a bucket list, if we didn’t have one already) and write about them. Interestingly enough, I focused on cemeteries, since there are three of them I’d like to visit before I kick the bucket, so to speak. Hope you enjoyed the poem.