For some reason, this post didn’t make it over from the transfer from my old thepulpitandthepen.com blog. So I decided to “resurrect” it and add a few photos of the river from which this journey begins.
There is a section in the Hastings Cemetery in Michigan where children who died during or before birth are buried. It’s at the back corner of the cemetery, on a ledge overlooking the Thornapple River. Years ago, during a spring flood, some of the graves were lost to the river which flows into the Grand and then on into Lake Michigan as the waters make their way to the sea. While tragic, I try to make the best of the situation.
Bury me with the children who died prematurely
and planted in simple graves, at the back of the cemetery,
far from the gaze of the mourner, ‘cept broken-hearted parents.
Bury me under a huge sycamore,
whose broad leaves shade the ground in summer
and white bark appears ghostly on a foggy morn.
Bury me where the river makes its sharp bend
its swift waters carving into the bank.
There, I can hear the river call as it rushes past.
Bury me close to the ledge where in a few years or maybe a century,
a spring flood will free me and those kids
and I’ll lead them on a grand adventure.
In our box boats we’ll shoot through the gates of the Middleville and Irving dams,
forgetting the dangers for it no longer matters to the dead.
We’ll laugh as we catch an eddy below and float in circles.
At Alaska, the village-not the state, we’ll shoot the rapids
and when we meet the Grand, we’ll chat with those fishing for salmon
and wave to the pedestrians on the bridges at Grand Rapids.
I hope it is night, with waves breaking over the piercing lighthouse,
when we leave the river at Holland, for the lake. We’ll then float more slowly
watching the lights on shore fade from sight as we navigate by the North Star.
Time will slow as we slip from one lake to another
and over those falls at Niagara that terrify all but the dead,
before making our way into Canada and down that great waterway.
And years later, if our wooden boats hold, we’ll slip out the St. Lawrence
and into the cold waters of the North Atlantic along with ice bergs,
riding the Gulf Stream as it heads north and then east and back south.
We’ll bed down with wintering puffins
and watch whales play as they ply the sea, while we pass
Iceland and the Faroes, Scotland and Ireland, and on beyond the Azores.
Bury me with the children, in the back of the cemetery,
and in time the river will call, and we’ll float
to where peaceful waters gather.
-jg September 2017