Finalist : Terrain.org 9th Annual Contest in Poetry
To Scatter at Descanso Gardens
Cuando yo me muera,
enterradme si queris en una veleta.
Cuando yo me muera! ~ Lorca
When evening arrives
as a stranger in velvet slippers
it has no shadow
but you panic
at your mirrored reflection
in the dark.
It feels like death—
a spider waiting
and when you leave
it will weave you
But you want to remember all
you’ve ever been
a Buddha beneath
the Bodhi tree.
Watch your lives
like a great forest
then the calm
the gardener says
he’ll find you again,
when he’s troweled
the upper fields
and dug the weeds away.
He’ll talk to you
so you’ll never be lonely.
He knows how deer leap
in the closed hours
to graze on the sweetest grasses.
How the ghosts
of the scrub oaks wander.
There are nights
when the moon slips off
its white coat
and every wild thing
stirs in its cauldron.
When the wind rattles
you’ll be buried like Lorca
in a weather vane—
the one that stands
near the fiery maple
how it turns and turns
toward the stars
cold with memory.
To a Friend at Rilke’s Grave in Raron
Alles ist eins. ~ Rilke
The black-faced sheep
are bleating, their bells
a soft song—a clinking of spoons
in tin cups—a call to presence
when the world draws them
into its map of the living.
The pines trees know how the dark hum
of a new season enters the lungs
like a promise. And if it is a promise
how can it be sustained?
I stand in bare feet near my rucksack
and the grey slate path
to his grave. The mountains offer distance,
the snow a memory of a life
I barely recall. Just the blue repeating
of the Alps and from somewhere a chant—
three words that fall from the air
as my shadow touches his grave.
And as I whisper them over and over
I cannot say he isn’t present.
I cannot say the dead don’t move toward
what calls them. Only how the valley stretches
its worn jacket on the grass
and begs me to stay. How my heart
is a spinnaker in the wind
catching the breath of it. I linger as long
as I can—until the shadow of his cross
escapes into darkness. I make my way back
through the mosaic of gravestones
and the plots of bright flowers planted
near each grave. Cross the corner
where the aspen trembles
and then I see you just as you are—awoken
from the place of dreams and I cannot tell where
the soft green slope of the hill ends
and your hip begins. I want to say
don’t forget her, she’s still on the hill,
her body shaded from October sun—
her face in profile, arms resting on knees
as she looks into the deepening vale.
Aren’t parts of us buried in the lands we meet?
Our souls broken into bones
sure as flint. There are foxes like wood smoke
in the body. They move quietly in the forest.
They know one of their own. They will find you.
They will dig you up.
Header and other photos of Descanso Gardens and Raron, Switzerland by Lois P. Jones.