Charlotte Matthews

To The Men Who Mow the County Graveyards

It won’t be long before the designs you form are echoed

in the shivering leaves of an ash tree right there on the hillside


and because it’s November those patterns will remain

all winter long, a sort of engraved, emblazoned pattern.


You are walking cautiously and must be able

to read the stones: Earth hath no sorrow heaven cannot heal.


Robert Morris, Garland Maupin, Jacob Hall

who just this spring whacked at the bull thistle in his clover field


with a steel scythe, timbre so sheer I held my breath,

as I did, once, under water, because the clang of an anchor


resounded in the heavy sea and my whole body

unwrapped right there in the harbor.


Look back over your shoulder.

The grass is gently sweeping like water at your feet.


It’s the same lustrous quiet as the time Robert held

the black string of his dousing  pendulum over a plat of land.


At first he whispered, then was wordless, balancing the lead

teardrop between thumb and index finger, letting it sway


and sway in shorter and shorter arcs.

Watching him I felt I’d come a little more alive.


In the dusk somewhere tonight a table lamp comes on.

A woman sits under it recognizing, suddenly, she is all alone.


There is a river moving under all the land.

There never was a night that had no morn.



“To The Men Who Mow the County Graveyards” first appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Volume 82, number 1.