I knew you were back there,
concealed somewhere on a private farm;
I cruised the country road out front,
guessing where you were, trying
to catch a glimpse of white stone.
On a September day, finally,
I gained access, thanks to the intercession
of out-of-town cousins
equally eager to see the graves
but more forward about asking permission.
In a wooded patch surrounded
by a rusty wire fence
camouflaged by the undergrowth
of late summer,
I saw where you were at last;
even knowing you were there,
I couldn’t spy the markers among the weeds.
The trees met overhead, creating a kind of
sylvan crypt. Nature had taken over again,
fallen trees toppling stones, vines and roots
doing their own kind of vandalism.
The search took awhile, but there you were,
straight, unmarred, easy to read:
“Samuel Mount, died Apr. 6, 1827;
in the 84th year of his age.”
My sixth great-grandfather,
I wish I could know
what life was like on that land
when you arrived from New Jersey,
what it took to endure so many decades
in such a perilous age, what you felt
when you buried your wife, Patience,
almost a decade earlier,
the first known grave.
Was it pretty and pastoral,
or a lonely spot in the field?
Who stood with you
Many graves would follow hers, yours—
other great-grandfathers, your heirs,
and their wives and children. I know they’re
strangers, but I’m glad I got to see
where they ended. It makes a difference,
Samuel, to know where you sleep.
Maude M. Mount, d. 1877
Every November around Veteran’s Day, I think of Tom Jenkins. He was a student at Xavier University in Cincinnati; I met him when I volunteered for the Appalachian aid program at Mount St. Joseph College my freshman year in 1972. … Continue reading »