Today’s Count

 

Few surprises here.

The black iron fence usually bare

But here and there supporting vines stringing purple fruit.

In one spot, a tree trunk embraces the fence

Willingly impaling itself as it stretches to the sky.

Responding productively to the intrusion on its growth.

It conveniently stands adjacent to the sidewalk

Testifying to the mysteries of the cemetery.

The time vested there.

An unnoticed oddity.

 

The rows of stones of variable heights, sizes

Traversed by grassy pathways.

Occasional red or yellow flowers underneath

Some stones great and fearless

Proclaim their deceased to the world.

Other stones narrow and vulnerable.

Tiny stones, too, jut out from the bare ground,

Some askew, some embedded directly in the earth.

The children lie there.

Dates, some eighty years old, eroded.

Names obscured by time and wind.

No longer documenting memories of their dead.

(Some Hebrew words need not rely upon legibility

So commonplace are their sentiments.)

 

Today’s count is ten.

This section a favourite

For those mysterious forces responsible for

The ten massive blocks lying prone.

Six hundred pounds each or more.

An act of will, but of whose?

No one says.

The residents on the borders,

The visitors bearing tears and obligation,

The newspapers

Nothing offered but the silence

That attends this place as closely as the grass.

Few people look

Beyond the black iron barrier.

 

I walk on, my dog alongside.

A family passes, pushing strollers and their most current reports

On children and life.

The cemetery a background.

It’s regular features,

Limited palate of colours, predictable inactivity

A manageable and silent history in our backyards.

Strangely pleasant.

 

But today’s count was ten.

 

_________________________________

 

The Lesson

 

I heard a child on the street

Sweet chatter of toys games celebrities fast food

Some such moment of spontaneity

Accompanied by laughter

Shared with all within earshot

Collective pleasure, an easy claim.

 

When is it shattered

By the unnatural knowledge

Bodies violated

Children rejected

Parents hated?

Children learn a new possibility

Their chemistry forever altered.

 

_________________________________

 

Attentiveness

 

You see their teeth?

She remarked to me

The points of the children’s canines?

In my day, we filed those.

Ugly, they are.

Sharp like an animal

Piercing things

Like my attention.

 

You see yourself, mother?

I would not remark to her

The inattention of your memory?

In your day, you endured his violence.

Ugly, it was.

Sharp, like an animal

Piercing things

Like your selfhood.

 

_________________________________

 

Pigeons

 

The day my shopping buggy broke on the Danforth

Stranded there waiting for a cab to take me home

Nothing to do…

…except watch the birds.

Pigeons embody the quotidian

Collected on urban windowsills

Their detritus a morass below.

But they land steps from me.

Once, twice, three times

Poking through last season’s vegetation

Tossing most of it aside

Selecting an appropriate twig

And carry it off, aloft

Gainful outcome of their domestic project

Steadfast, singular, nonplussed industry

No one’s notice.

 

_________________________________

 

Today’s Count

Today’s count was ten.

In this stillness defining open space,

Surprise as alien here as loss designed.

Unseen, untouched, unsullied by thought.

Its bizarre secrets need only the concealment

Of silence.

 

Today’s count was ten, in this stillness

Amid the rows of stones of irregular heights, sizes, detail.

Traversed by grassy pathways.

Interrupted by the occasional flower, hedge, an ornamental cabbage for the fall.

Thick-stemmed dandelion rising three feet from robust, perennial roots.

Some obelisks great and fearless proclaim their deceased to the world.

Other stones narrow and vulnerable whispering their names.

Some tiny tablets jut out from the bare ground, some askew, some embedded in the earth.

Children.

Early dates eroding from 1913, names obscured by time and wind.

Sturdy modern monuments for forever, symbols cut deep and sure

All craggy records of lives

Rendered only in name, date, In Loving Memory, Sadly Missed.

The Hebrew inscriptions unknowable to me.

A commonality amid diversity: etched floral trims, stars, pillars, finials.

In this stillness defining open space.

 

Today’s count was ten, surprise alien here…

Yet observe a bizarre union between tree and fence.

The fence, black iron, mostly bare,

Here and there supporting vines stringing purple fruit.

In one spot, a tree, black organism, now bare,

Planted adjacent,

In its infancy they embraced each other, a metal intrusion on the tree’s slow growth skyward.

Two rungs disappear inside the black mystery of trunk, tips emerging five feet higher

The others rungs wrap all round fusing in and out with bark.

The tree impaled, adapted, before it continues upward on its free mission in space.

The fence consumed, bent, before it ends in a spikey dance.

The two objects merging in their blackness so ordinary.

Surprise as alien here as loss designed.

 

Today’s count was ten, unseen, untouched

But what forces cause the disturbance to the symmetry

Of upright monoliths (of irregular heights, sizes, detail)?

The downing of these massive blocks,

Five hundred pounds, six.

This section a favourite, Benevolent Society?

No concern for proximity to the road,

No pattern discernible, only

The grand kind a likely victim.

The poor and the children spared. So

Ten massive markers lie prone.

The vandals

Unseen, untouched, unsullied by thought.

 

Today’s count was ten, bizarre secrets.

The silent fusion of a tree and fence.

The impotence of a violence.

No one talks. No one sees. Not

The residents on its borders,

The visitors bearing tears and obligation,

The workers with caps and machines

The newspapers.

Nothing offered but the quiet that attends this place as closely as the grass.

People walk on with dogs, strollers, friends,

Spinning their most current reports on children and life.

This place just background.

It’s regular features, limited palate of colours, predictable inactivity

A manageable and static history in our backyards.

Strangely pleasant.

Its bizarre secrets need only the concealment

Of silence.

 

Today’s count was ten.

In this stillness defining open space,

Surprise as alien here as loss designed.

Unseen, untouched, unsullied by thought.

Its bizarre secrets need only the concealment

Of silence.

 

 

 

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