A small handmade marker stuck in the grass
with my father’s distinct printing marks four
empty gravesites bookended by used graves
of my mother’s kin. On the opposite side
of my grandparents’ stone are two empty
rectangles of grass, reserved and morbid
with the business of waiting for my mother
and father, a pressing reunion. Here are nine
filled graves, with three more up the hill.
There’s room for six more of us. One is mine,
if I want, and one is for another, if I want,
to have join me in death or wait for me.
A hand-painted sign is nailed to a pine tree,
asking for donations for cemetery upkeep.
A tarry sap oozes from the one nail. I smell
its crusting bulb of amber, the rust layers
of needles underfoot, last autumn’s decay,
the many years before, my steps covered.
These are the same sensations from when
I tended these graves with my grandfather
as a child, the same mulching of pine straw,
clover, and sap, that magic dust filling
my nose as it does now forty years later
under trees still alive, thirty feet taller,
scraggly, but still shadowing my possible grave.
I pocket the only pine cone I can find, secret
it away in the console of my car, its scent
entrusted in my fingerprints for the rest
of the day, though I never have to check.
I have known my ground since childhood.
Larry D. Thacker’s poetry can be found in over sixty magazines and journals, including Still: The Journal, Poetry South, Mad River Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Mojave River Review, Mannequin Haus, Ghost City Review, Jazz Cigarette, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, and the poetry books Voice Hunting and Memory Train, as well as the forthcoming Drifting in Awe. Visit his website at: http://www.larrydthacker.com.