An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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    In Memory Hill Cemetery

    I've come here to take a photograph
    of Flannery O'Connor's grave.
    With me are mockingbirds,
    robins, and cardinals, nervous,
    never lighting long, flitting
    from headstone to bough to picket.
    I have a Polaroid Land Camera 340,
    old as me purchased in the early
    seventies, inherited from great uncle Phineas.
    It works but every photograph
    is a ritual — no auto anything.
    Her grave, pale granite, reflects
    in the viewfinder — a constellation
    of dark pennies beside a nebula of grass.
    Why offer an assemblage of withered weeds
    and pennies dark with weather?
    Light floods the film I don't pull through the rollers.
    I don't want the image to develop yet.
    I carry it past the governors and statesmen
    in their Greek revival graves
    near the center toward the back of the cemetery,
    through the light skinned white-Blacks
    on the near side of the cemetery road,
    a carriage's width I must cross
    to the Black section.
    It slopes down to the creek in the bottom.
    If photos stop time
    how long does it take me
    to cross the cemetery?
    What do the strides
    to the other side mean?
    Here handmade bricks
    like colorful quilts laid into the ground
    cover graves of slaves.
    Where is Sisyphus?
    I think I see him in the bottom
    bringing back bricks that have washed
    down to the creek. Maintaining these graves
    is right up his alley.
    No headstones here,
    only three rusted links hung
    from a rod, the first for birth,
    second for life, and third for
    death in slavery — household slaves
    working for the important
    families of Georgia's old capital.
    When did the third link close?
    No birth or death dates. No names.
    I expose the film again.
    I pull it from the camera and wait.
    I separate the positive from the negative
    and two graves cloud to one.

     

    Published in Blood Ties and Brown Liquor (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).

    Published: 27 February 2009

    © 2009 Sean Hill and Southern Spaces