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It assaults the eye, the Ponder family

graveyard, with twin obelisks visible

half a mile away. Inside its fence,

weeds, sawbriar, two monoliths inscribed

”in ivy wreaths” “George L.” and “His wife,

Sarah.” Beyond these stones lie markers

for three children””This lovely bud

so young and fair,” reads the only girl’s.

In a second row”three tiny graves

with dates effaced or nearly so, all

unnamed infants. No other stones, no

children who survived to upraise

monuments, three-tiered and roofed,

with finials, Corinthian columns

at each corner of one tier, each stone

standing on a graduated pediment

and decorated with trefoils, leaves,

rosettes, like a monumental wedding cake.

Sarah (1824-1896) outlived her husband

by a decade, her last born””Fair fleeting

comfort of an hour””by forty years.

Don’t you think she ordered these stones

to displace her perpetual grief, its

layers and twinings, its weight? How deeply

was her memory etched with the image

of a child staring by the door

as they carried out a coffin so light

and small a man could clutch the box

beneath a single arm? (“Purer this bud

will bloom above in bowers of paradise.”)

She knew what a heart is for: to bury it

six times, or seven, without losing it;

to pass through a door blindly and yet

recognize the child, precious and imperiled,

breathing by the sill. Yes, it had to have

been Sarah who commanded marble shafts

to lift their heads above the province

of fever and accident; who demanded

trefoils, vines and wreaths, little roofs,

cornices, pillars, and spires, reasoning

God might dispose of the land but no one

would dare disturb such tormented stones.