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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.

Diane Bonds

Photo by Jessica Johnston on UnsplashImage cropped.