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Mar 292015
 

by Molly Meyer

We will have to get down on all fours and eat the grasses

of the cemeteries forever—Federico García Lorca

 

 1918, Philadelphia

 

 John Gray’s feverish psalms

could not save his wife and child.  Or himself.

The Bureau of Child Hygiene left the weakest ones

on the sidewalk, made it easier for the garbage collectors.

No more caskets at Covington’s funeral parlor.

Fortunately, the Grays pre-paid, ended up side-by-side-by-side.

Laid to unrest in Monument Cemetery, garden of dust.

Only God and the gravedigger attended services.

 

 1956, Philadelphia

 

 The city condemns Monument Cemetery,

sends letters to 28,000 families. Pick up your bones.

Grandchildren don’t care much about skulls and teeth.

Neither does Temple University.

Commuter students need parking spaces.

But what to do about all those mumbling mandibles?

 

The backhoe scoops up the remains of the Grays,

dumps them in an unmarked plot. Emily’s right fibula

caresses John’s left clavicle. Little Sarah’s sacrum rests

in child’s pose. John and Sarah’s headstones go missing,

probably crushed under Lot C, parking spaces reserved

for night owls with hang-tags.

 

2014, Philadelphia

 

Emily’s headstone lies upside down

under the Betsy Ross Bridge. Temple sold her

for granite rip-rap, reinforcement to armor the shore line.

At low tide, 20,000 chiseled stones watch students cross

from Jersey to Philly and back again. Most commuters

don’t know the bridge to higher earning rests on mislaid souls.

Only the Delaware comforts the dead, gently laps

over birthdates and epitaphs, tries to wash away greed.