The cemetery supervisor asked Calendar,
Can you operate a backhoe? He could,
and (bonus!) no one else applied.
He set to the job. Once a few years passed
no one much recalled what The Sexton
used to do for a living, before he was
The Sexton. A third life was underway,
he liked to conceptualize it tripartite.
He’d been Jimmy then James
childhood through young adulthood,
just Calendar throughout the marriages,
the family effort. Now he tends the garden
of the gone-away, layers dirt and knits grass
back together where he’s had to dig.
As if there never was a seam. Is that important?
He’s not certain. Do what you know how to do.
The Sexton comes to love the quiet,
his routinized tasks simple but essential.
The job replaces his name. He’s satisfied
with this third iteration, this self-story, working closely
with what once scared him the most. At peace.
No one else applied, and so The Sexton
polishes a necessary craft. When done right
no one notices. His first and second versions
didn’t have this patience in them. Amen.
Todd Mercer won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Contest for 2015 and was runner-up in the Palm Beach Poetry Festival Plein Air Poetry Contest. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s poetry and fiction appear in Apocrypha & Abstractions, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Kentucky Review, The Lake, The Legendary, Main Street Rag anthologies, Midwestern Gothic and Spartan.