Saturday, December 20, 2014

Poem: My sister’s grave today is elegant and bare

My sister’s grave today is elegant and bare

Bereft ev’n of that stone which pressed her coffin down

And had a little space to hold such poor tribute

As I could bring on my rare visits to the site.

Then I could only lay it down upon the ground

below which rest her bones and hair, for little else

defies this mortal world till He come round who will

Renew the world and us, we’re told. My years fade too,

And I confront the thought that I may never pass

this way again, at least in flesh; the more regret

that this last time perhaps, though I speak here with God

As I am wont to do, I could not bring with me

that least of tokens on her day of birth: a rose.


I used to find travel both exciting and attractive – I suppose because it is associated with childhood visits to the mountains each summer holiday as long as my father was alive. After that, the family could barely survive till I and my siblings started working, and even then could only rarely afford the time and money for holidays. I still find it difficult to initiate holidays. Moreover, after one has been whirled around the world several times on that purposeful but rushed and joyless routine called business travel, I guess expeditions lose their charms. Perhaps age has something to do with it. At least, it is so for me.

In any case, after my sister was killed, I have visited DC only on the rare occasions when business paid for the travel that brought me to town. However, whenever I come to DC, I always visit her grave, bringing with me a single rose.

On my sister’s grave, near the headstone, the gravestone had a little depression, less than half the depth and size of the digit of a little finger. I used to cut the stem of a rose to that tiny dimension, and leave it resting there, on each visit - as long as the gravestone was there.

For reasons best known to the authorities at the Arlington National Cemetery, they remove, some time after the burial, each gravestone, leaving only the headstone to mark each place of burial.

As all the headstones are of a precise height and shape, the effect is to render the entire Cemetery geometric and coldly symmetrical. It is difficult to find a particular grave even after you have been to it several times. You need to know the row and serial number which make it possible to locate any particular grave.

When the gravestone was no longer there, I used to leave my rose on the ground just near the spot where the headstone emerged from the ground.

In 2014, when I was 65 years of age and starting both to confront the relative nearness of my own mortality as well as the fact that that business would perhaps no longer pay to bring me to DC, I found myself in the city again at relatively short notice and, for the very first time since her death, the visit was not only in December but also on the second of the month.

As it turned out, my schedule was too full, so I could neither visit her grave on her birthday (which is on the third) nor even bring with me what I had till then always brought on each visit: a rose.

It is all those regrets and sadnesses and uniformities that stain the hope that marks this poem.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

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