July 12, 1907. A group of mourners gather
in the small cemetery behind McPherson Church.
Lillie, mother of the dead child, weeps behind
a cotton veil too heavy for the unseasonable heat.
Edgar, only 24, hangs back, unprepared for his own
shameful tears. He grips a knotted handkerchief
in his sweaty hands, listens to the minister eulogize
his daughter and then close with a prayer.
Afterwards, the crowd members take turns-
a single shovel-full each.
I hear the scatter of sandy soil against
rough pine as I stand 85 years later,
speaking the names of the dead,
inventing a memory by the cluster of graves
this autumn evening, waiting for my own child
to finish soccer practice in an adjoining field.
By September, the family will lose another
child, return to this same ground to bury a son.
And ten years later, in August of 1917-
as our nation rushes to fight the war
to end all wars-Lillie and Edgar, now
in their mid-thirties, will never be blessed
or cursed with childbirth again, living out
their passions, carrying the burden of their
unforgotten children as though relentlessly
pregnant with them. What small smooth stones
they leave. Cut from granite, these names
and dates seem as rooted as the towering maples
above; sun and shade dance on these small plots,
leave unclear their faded designs.