Memory is a cemetery
I’ve visited once or twice, white
ubiquitous and the set-aside
Everywhere under foot…

Charles Wright

Haar pours upstreet like a river
in reverse, waterfalls
the kirkyard gate where I wade
through night’s small hours,
over the plush quiet-and-still
like a rug beneath my feet.
Stone after stone
the dark unveils its dead ligeance,
and there’s nothing to be found
as in those age-old stories
where a lover bears her ritual
of myrhh and rose-clippings
to find the shroud torn, tracks
leading away from the empty grave.
No—I don’t believe in second-
comings or the everafter,
only anatomy’s decay: the body
becoming like moonlight
hurried in the stagnant pool of itself,
until it no longer recalls the self,
only earth and the dew-laced
strands of grass it feeds.
I was a boy when I watched
the other boys lead a dog
into the field behind my house,
douse his coat with oil and send him
blazing through the furze—
the whole tract consumed
by a rippled tongue of flame
licking the air. The next year
spilled with yellow buds
and I read the story of a man
drowned at sea: how the ocean,
a black tumult, turned smooth
and glinting as he sank beneath.
Listen: the past has nothing to say
for itself—after the first death
the rest follow step into the earth’s vault.
And every night I work the spade
as haar pools up-around my knees,
lower the rope and from each
new grave pry open a silence—
like pulling back the sheet
they laid over my sweet-heart’s face,
when her heart stopped
beneath the mortsafe of her ribs.

Tarn W. Painter-MacArthur‘s work has appeared in The Columbia Review, Blue Earth Review, Willows Wept Review, and the anthology “Leonard Cohen You’re Our Man.” He’s the recipient of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Award, and the Penny Wilkes Writing and the Environment Award. Currently he lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he’s the Walter and Nancy Kidd Fellow at the University of Oregon.