In a shady graveyard corner
three slate headstones face a wall.
Despite the noon glare splashing
the rest of the weedy acre,
this corner’s so dark I can’t read
the inscriptions, if any remain.
But as I fondle a surface
to detect surviving characters
silver mist rises from the soil
and makes me cough. I retreat
to a safe and sunny distance
and watch the shadows thicken
and brighten with haze. Figures
seem to form, or maybe only
tricks of light and shade. Long ago
oblivion erased every thought
these citizens had, and left
their infrastructure to decay.
This ghostly fog isn’t ghost
but miasma trampled from the moss
when in my usual clumsy way
I tried to trace the names and dates
of people who aren’t my business.
Nothing has changed. The August sun
lurches across a cloudless sky,
the trees in their innocence cast
shade deep enough to drown in.
Why should I feel such a clamor
of nerves at the root of my senses?
The mist has congealed and surely
represents in subtle hues
the dead who have emitted it.
Not souls but last desperate breaths
seeking audience or at least
a glimmer of light to assure them
a version of the world survives.