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Northern Ontario: Finnish Cemetary

Michael Crummey
From:   Arguments With Gravity. Kingston, Ont.: Quarry Press, 1996.


Mortared stone at the entrance,
the rows of unbordered gravesites
bordered by a narrow band of spruce.
In the wilt of afternoon heat
her father walks ahead with the mower,
his long complicated silence buried in
the sloppy growl of the engine
while she follows behind, holding a scythe,
taking down the waist-high purple
of lupins around her grandfather's grave.

Foreign names chiselled into marble,
words the country has never learned
to properly speak --
Koivula, Korhonen, Koski --
this century's immigrants, arriving
to clear a piece of land with an axe
and the strength of a body that knows
it can't go home.
Some giving up hope in the end,
broken by root-infested fields and
the long darkness of winters that
guttered speech into stoic silence;
the bones of the first settlers become
another knot in the stubborn tangle of earth.

Someday she knows she will bury her father
where the oiled blade sings neatly
through the green stalks,
and there is so much she wants to hear
from him, so much she would like to have said
before he is lain here like
a length of summer grass.

A father can be as difficult a love
as an adopted country,
how part of him always remains a stranger
how impossible it is to leave cleanly, completely.
She follows behind him now because
there is nowhere else she can go,
because the summers here are brief,
and as she moves in his shadow
she is thinking about silence, about
the scythe, about the fallen purple lupins
around her feet.


Michael Crummey's works copyright © to the author.


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