the museum of americana

a literary review

Cemetery: Olivet, Michigan — Poetry by Carol V. Davis

It is not because my friend’s mother is dying
that I step onto the path that slices
this hillside cemetery in lopsided halves
like a sagging pear.

My first day in a town so small
the laundromat closed down.
When I peer through the bolted door,
the lips of the dryers are pursed in disgust.

My friend dreamed she was in a basement room
overly lit like a fraternity party.
A woman with too many rings approached and blurted:
Your mother has died.

I walk down a path toward the swampy water.
Clusters of graves with names of the town’s founders.
As if by some trick, they all have last names
that should be firsts: Kay, Willis, George,
Perhaps a secret club, names clutched as passwords,

The students avoid the cemetery.
One explains in a voice dripping with condescension,
that a ghost walks between the graves,
Perhaps he is trying to frighten me.

On this late spring afternoon, the branches
droop like kimono sleeves.
I want to see this ghost, for him to explain
the crossing, how to guide the boat back.

When he meets my friend’s mother,
tell her the sour cherry is blooming.
After I picked a wand of flowers,
tipped it into a vase with stained glass,
it let out a high C and held the note.
~ ~ ~

Carol V. Davis is the author of Because I Cannot Leave This Body (Truman State Univ. Press, 2017), Between Storms (2012) and won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, she taught in Ulan-Ude, Siberia, winter 2018 and teaches at Santa Monica College and Antioch Univ. Los Angeles.