The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Don Colburn

Burial Ground near Piney Branch

You come upon it suddenly, no sign,
a fastness in the woods just off the fire road
on the way to Little Devil Stairs.
The woods are thick with sassafras,
greenbriar and shagbark hickory
but here give in to airy otherness,
outlined by stately Norway maples
around the square stone wall.
Within, more separate stones, upright
or tilted by weather and their own weight,
time’s heft. Step inside the iron gate,
take time to be alone with them:
headstones, field stones, polished, rough,
some that barely clear the ground.
The chiseled ones bear names
like Bolen, Gaunt and Clatterbuck—
folks who settled these hills and hollows
before the feds drew boundaries
around and through—and benedictions
cut in stone against eternity:
Asleep in Jesus . . . Gone Home . . .
Thy trials ended, thy rest begun.

Hyphens stand for lives between the years,
deciduous as autumn leaves.
Do the arithmetic: this one at seventeen,
that one a ripe old fifty-two, and over there
a child born on the day she died
or dead the day she was born,
you choose, you tell the story now. 

Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication