The Old Section Of The Cemetery On Bootjack Hill, Montmorenci Falls

They rarely bother to mow here anymore,
Once a month, perhaps every other
(Times are tight, full burials being pretty much
A thing of the past these days)
Though it’s unlikely anyone would notice
If the grass grew a bit longish,
Or the crownvetch and crabgrass became a little more prevalent,
No one being buried in this part of the cemetery
For the better part of a hundred years now,
The stones bleached and faded from decades of sleet and sunlight
And acid rain from the auto plants of Flint and Lorain and South Bend,
(Now boneyards for gears and drill bits themselves)
Those names still legible on the teetering, unsteady stones
Mostly the stolid Scotch-Irish surnames
Vaguely familiar from the town’s founding generation
Found on its street signs or pocket-parks,
Their descendants mostly having fled to friendlier climes,
Though the odd lesser strain of the families remain
(Not that they would choose to pay tribute to those ancestors
To whom they have fared so poorly in comparison)
Though many more bear the family names of their trades,
Clusters of Coopers, Weavers, and Smiths,
Their stones bearing the sentiments of grim Victorian fatalism,
Thus in mercy early call’d away or the happy soul is that which fled.
Such thoughts are quaint, eccentric things to us now,
As would be the clothes they wore, the songs they sung,
But we would know them nonetheless,
Know the muted joy of their minor successes,
The depth and finality of their defeats,
The sting of bowing and scraping
To the owners of the mill, the haughty town fathers,
As they served them at the milliners or the drug store,
Their odd, fleeting dreams of grandeur having come to rest here,
Cherry-lidded as they proceed to dust.

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21 thoughts on “The Old Section Of The Cemetery On Bootjack Hill, Montmorenci Falls

  1. I love the way you have captured the divide between past and present.. a different perspective on the mill town. I so enjoyed the read.

  2. Cemeteries are their own brand of fascinating. Nice work.

    Slightly unrelated, I once drove by a cemetery with name that was something like, “Future Cemetery” or “Futures Cemetery” … I don’t remember exactly, but it definitely had some version of “future” in it, which I found incredibly ironic and not a little creepy.

  3. I’m curious about your criticism of this poem. Which lines did you rework only to sit back at your computer and frown or sigh or twist your mouth down? Capturing the mixed emotions and imagery that a cemetery digs up in our minds is a heavenly challenge to be sure.

  4. I thought it was really good, WK. I’d also like to say that I agree with you that the first several lines are a bit long; that you should start the poem at “The stones bleached and faded from decades of sleet and sunlight And acid rain from the auto plants of Flint and Lorain and South Bend”.

    In my opinion, that would make it a lot better. I’m not much of a poet, but I read poetry, and that’s just my opinion.

    Glen

    1. I think that might be jumping in a little feet-first, but on reflection I think the third through seventh lines might be better done away with, so we’re at least kind of in agreement, eh?

  5. how’d I miss this? you know, I believe, my own proximity to a cemetery growing up. this is more tactile and empathetic than any pen I’ve written about them, though. I’ve been to Lorain and Elyria, with its Black River whispering through elms, to the country club and past the ice cream store where I wanted to stop, but Jack, my ex-wife’s step-grandfather, in his Catholic Irishness, would have none of, them being, well, Baptist, but really more importantly, black – past the brick houses and small yards, returning to the manse in which Esther and Jack lived. ~

  6. those plaques on the other side of fences. They have one here, other side of Pierre Dupuy’s soccer field, sight of Delorimier Downs. says something about the Royals and Jackie Robinson. I wish poems like this were on those plaques.

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