Tonight I wield not a pen but a shovel
the grain of wood etching into my palm
the dirt gritty, clumped against the blade
as I dig a shallow grave for the past.
Tonight I carry not a pack on my back but skeletons
macabre, grisly smiles dangling
over my shoulder, my weightless burden,
bones clanking like chains against my skin
like halloween as a child, frightened by ghosts
and plastic glow-in-the-dark skulls,
dark shadows lurking in corners, laughing
at my childish fear—
tonight, all too real.
Tonight I hear no song but a fugue
in the whistle of the trees, the tremor of the creek
the hollows of my mind left absent
metal sinks into the flesh of the earth
carving a space for the dead.
This poem was originally written on a deeply depressive night, when I was sunk into memories of places and people long gone, things I wanted to be rid of, memories I wished I could unburden myself of. The night I wrote this was a bleak and hopeless night. But after watching my younger sister Elena graduate from Oberlin college this weekend, I have a different, more hopeful take. “When one door closes, another opens,” so the cliche goes, but I like to think that also, once you’ve buried your past, you open yourself up to the future. This poem is, for all its funerary language, hopeful: we dig shallow graves for our past that we might better prepare ourselves for the future.