Watering the Graves

I hadn’t visited in years.

This cemetery where once I cowered

in a Brownie uniform,

covered my ears at those Memorial Day

cannon blast salutes.  Where

I come now with my son and my mother,

to water the graves.


Marc pumps to fill the jug,

sloshes water that stains the headstones dark,

careful so as not to drown

the geraniums and bleeding hearts.

My mother is glad this place does not allow

plastic flowers, or grave rubbings to dull the stones.


One set of grandparents at the left

another at the right, dates and names

so neatly bring closure

to what has not really ended, to what I feel

moving through my mother, through me, through my child—

all those swirling helixes.

We water, yet again.


My mother will not answer as to her preferences

for a final resting place—she will leave that, she says,

to her survivors.  She turns away, as if she finds the subject too morbid,

as if I have tread on forbidden ground.

Here in this place, where it would seem age should draw us closer

through our bones’ own longing to return to earth.

My mother  makes this pilgrimage  reluctantly, in duty, in sadness,

full with too many reminders of all that has been lost.


Only the young can come here to rejoice.

I remember how my brother and I would beg

to call upon our grandfather’s grave as if

the very marrow below the earth

spun into our own cells would summon us,

as it calls my child, who spins round as if tethered.

We too, came closer then, without fear,

to step into that dance.

MEG J. PETERSEN is a writer and a teacher of writing at Plymouth State University, where she directs the National Writing Project in New Hampshire. She is currently in Santo Domingo on a Fulbright scholarship working with Dominican teachers on teaching writing. Her poems have won prizes with the New England Association of Teachers of English and the Seacoast Writers Association. She was named as a feature poet by the New Hampshire Arts Council. Her poems have appeared in Concrete Wolf, Entelechy International: A Journal of Contemporary Ideas, Garden Lane, English Journal, The Leaflet, The International Journal for Teaching Writing and other publications.