Edward J. Renehan Jr.


Family Burying Ground

No more the burying ground.
This district has been rezoned
for highway; and we are collecting
our family's bones. In the
morning sun my brother and I
uncover sixteen smiling skulls, one of which
debated Daniel Webster.

We are digging up each ancestor,
sorting them into sixteen
separate boxes
at the back of my
truck.

We do dirty, vertical work.
My dog cannot keep from sniffing
the boxes.
He recognizes rare finds. He
whines when I lift them
away from him;

but he really can't expect to gnaw
on a jaw that debated
Daniel Webster.

We dig carefully. We are inexperienced
ghouls. We are making discoveries.
We are staring into the
face
of the past. In
this skull was dreamed the dream of this
house; these hands
sketched
it.

*


"At midday," he wrote in the diary of
1837, "the shadow of the peak will
fall on the ground where
we shall lay." Always in the
shadow to lay.
The graves and house
will now both
give way.

What is a shadow?
Part of the slow chemistry of
dissolution. He is hardly
here. The
shadow will follow when
we drive up
the road.


Edward J. Renehan Jr.'s books include The Lion's Pride (Oxford University Press, 1998), The Secret Six (Crown, 1995) and John Burroughs: An American Naturalist (Black Dome Press, 1992). His poetry has appeared in The American Scholar and other journals. Renehan lives near Wickford, Rhode Island.

 

 

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