Yucca, cacti, and wild flowers sway to the rosy melody of the setting sun. Mischievous, as if animated by ghosts playing hide and seek in the grass. The mastodon of sky looms unfettered by skyscraper obstructions, roaming whimsically from horizon to horizon, king above the antheaps and architecture below.
Wilderness has transgressed the barb wire boundary separating cemetery from prairie. We’ve come to fight the overgrowth, reclaim our graves from the plains. No sound save for the crunch of rubber on gravel interrupts the solemn larking of crickets as my grandmother and I pull weeds. A single beer bottle, a tarnished harmonica, flags, dog tags, a flower, a Christmas ornament, a tobacco tie, mementos of the dead are arranged on nearly every grave. Faded, slowly erased, like the persons beneath, fallen off the whirl of human history.
My grandpa will never croon with an archaic big band hit as he tells stories in front of the woodstove again. An uncle is someplace he can’t whittle sculptures with the blade he brought back from Korea. A great grandmother will never appreciate another mother’s day flower. Cousin doesn’t need the bottle to alleviate his sorrow anymore. A child won’t ever marry, laugh, or know the parents who left her to freeze in the garbage. Or the man who adopted her after death, gave her a name, and a place in his family cemetery plot.
I wipe the sweat from my brow. An ancient church, collapsing inward from dilapidation, rots adjacent to the cemetery. Cobwebs are strewn across the silence where exhortations to holiness were once proclaimed. Black widows feast on insect miscellany where worshipers used to gather. Everything dies. Everything flows and nothing stays. The same force that decayed the church ate away the persons beneath me and now threads its way through the world I know, driving all to the same inevitable end.
My cousin finishes mowing his side of the field, we pack the mowers back into the truck. We don’t speak. We rarely do. The dust is blood red in the glow of the setting sun as we travel the miles back to town. Lonely, but etched in a land where there is presence.