Thursday, August 11, 2005

Graves At Elkhorn -- Richard Hugo

--for Joe Ward

'Eighty-nine was bad. At least a hundred
children died, the ones with money planted
in this far spot from the town. The corn
etched in these stones was popular that year.
'Our dearest one is gone.' The poorer ones
used wood for markers. Their names
got weaker every winter. Now gray wood
offers a blank sacrifice to rot.

The yard and nearly every grave are fecned.
Something in this space must be definied--
where the lot you paid too much for ends
or where the body must not slide beyond.
The yard should have a limit like the town.
The last one buried here: 1938. The next
to last: 1911 from a long disease.

The fence around the yard is barbed, maintained
by men, around the graves, torn down
by pines. Some have pines for stones.
The yard is far from the town because
when children die the mother should repeat
some form of labor, and a casual glance
would tell you there could be no silver here.

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