….1. France. Poppies blooming blood.
Hedged by four sheets strung on wire, my grandparents
spent their wedding night, December 1917:
a New York married-barracks, moans muffled
the night before the men shipped out.
Three faces to a porthole on a transport ship.
“Fish in a barrel” riflemen would say, sometimes with pity.
Who would notice a patient in an Army hospital
with a different kind of cough?
….2. Tennessee. Fields overflowing corn.
As a girl, my wife heard it from her grandfather.
Elmer could bear to tell it only once. He’d turned 18.
After morning chores he volunteered to bury rural dead.
A horse. A spade. One afternoon he rode up
to a silent farmhouse. The chicken gate was down.
The dogs had disappeared. He buried a family of six,
each at peace in their own proper bed.
….3. Michigan. Orchards weighed with apples.
We socialize at a distance as he settles
on his grandmother, now passed.
She’d not forget at nine a wagon
daily coming past to load the dead.
Or the sight of her same-aged friend wrapped
in a sheet, a smaller bundle lifted on.
I imagine a stigma in her eye: something
she learned to see around, but never gone.
106, she died. Her breath disappeared as a bird
which glides silently beyond the trees.
She never did arrive at 2020,
with her chest a heavy haul for air,
her voice a reed too thin to call her friend
when the wagon comes around again.
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