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Cemetery

after Ada Limón

 
 
1.

What I fear most: the burning

sky, never being able to speak

 

again. The sharp, inimitable voicelessness

of the swallow that knows

 

she is already dead.

 

2.

Once, a boy told me

he wanted to write a long poem

about rivers.

 

Is that what this is? In the cemetery

 

a child laughs his way around

the mausoleum,

 

calling to his little sister

He’s dead.

Come on.

 

3.

Wrap me in tape

 

and throw me in the river.

I’ll end up in the place

where chrysanthemums grow

 

out of fox skulls.

 

Name the bones

for the petals.

Call them Eliza, rain,

 

teeth. I’ll call it heaven.

 

4.

In the night, I tear

off my name, skinnydip

 

in this wine-dark city I never wanted

to call home,

 

far from my family. I could build

my life here. I could be dead

 

here. Naked, nameless,

 

no one knows who I am

anyway. Two wolves

hunt in the dark, and I

 

am more of an animal, primal instinct

for survival.

 

I put my name back on.

 

5.

Now, the river. A riddle.

Is that what this is?

Mixed-up understandings of why

 

my arms fall into the water.

 

I am losing myself, thumbs first.

I want to feed the water my body, to be

 

bodiless. The act of leaving

is graceful, primal, it has become

 

mine. The river

 

is always going somewhere. I am always

going.

 

6.

Thick light, the kind

to fall in love to. The right kind of song

 

on the FM radio, a song that can stand up

 

and build a barn

in the middle of the prairie, canvas

 

for teenage vandalism, can build summer

while it’s there too. A girl draws

 

her life complete, charcoal sketches

and broken wheat.

The song, a funeral march.

 

7.

Am I imagining

life or death, refractions

of each other?

 

These are my versions of heaven.

 

The river never ends, it bends

and bends until it breaks

into ocean.

 

He’s dead.

 

Come on.

Stop writing about this.

 

8.

A portrait. When the sun falls to the earth,

 

the pines catch fire

and the whole cemetery burns.

Name it sunset.

 

I am there. I am here, in this poem,

unapologetic dynamism

of water, I will not burn.

 

Let me be a force of nature.

 

Let me never die.

Wild animal, and powerless, and magnificently

continuing. I will sculpt the land

 

around me. I will bend and bend

and break

into the ocean.

 
 
 

Ben Read lives in Spokane, Washington, where he is a senior at Lewis and Clark High School. His work has been recognized by RiverLit, Gigantic Sequins, and The Adroit Journal, and he was named a 2015 Foyle Young Poet of the Year by the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom. He recently co-founded Ponderosa Literary Journal at his high school. His favorite muse is the river.