An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Stones and Shadows

    1. Visiting the Stone

    The air in the car is thick and still. My father makes
    a right turn through the cemetery gates, giving me
    a significant look. I don't ask why. "The mausoleum
    keeps expanding," he says, without irony.

    "Have you ever been to a filing? Your mother and I
    went to our first last week." I give him the short laugh
    that he knows well. Not funny yet again. But I see
    that he's right — the mausoleum is expanding.

    Construction materials are stacked nearby, and the frame
    of an addition has been erected. The original building
    is crowded. White flowers adorn its smooth stone wall
    in odd spots as if they had been thrown against it

    at random. We step out of the car at the back
    of the graveyard, and my father leads me
    to a new headstone. Then he gestures to the ten letters
    cut into its face, shadows hiding in the furrows.

    He tells me he likes the view and how important
    that is when you think about spending eternity
    in one place. Small birds stand like sentinels
    on the neighboring monuments, watching us

    with black pearls of eyes. Like the stone angels,
    they keep us under constant vigil. Low clouds
    drift by. The sound of traffic from the highway
    is insufferable. I smile at my father and try

    to think of kind things to say to him. He smiles.
    But driving home, he is again the man I know.
    "How would you like to live on Dargan Street?"
    he asks with contempt as we pass the beaten houses

    of the poor. "How would you like to live
    in New York City?" I search for ways to interrupt,
    to shut him up. But when I look left, he has become
    just a voice in the driver's seat. "Son," says the voice.

    "Son, I think it's going to be a good year for you."
    The car arrives at the house, where my mother
    is waiting, asking where we've been. She holds
    the door open for us — me, the voice, my father's body.

    2. Shadow

    In the late afternoon, he is cooking steaks on the grill,
    and we're drinking beer. The clouds have moved on.
    Purple martins dart across the air, catching mosquitoes
    and going in and out of their houses. We are privileged

    in the extreme. And I don't want this to be a poem
    of complaint. I only want to say that my father and I
    are quiet. That there are words necessary and impossible,
    words as grand as shadows cast by stones.

    He stabs at a steak with his fork and says, "This one
    is your mother's — she doesn't want any blood in hers.
    She wants it about as well done as done can be."
    My mother's in the kitchen, cooking the potatoes.

    The shadows of the martins swim in the grass.
    The shadows of the grass dig into the earth.
    The shadows of the earth carve the moon
    into crescents, halves, and empty holes.

    I notice that the sundial in the plant bed is not
    positioned well. "Your sundial is keeping bad time,"
    I tell my father. He smiles and says, "That's not
    what I got it for," pointing to the image in relief,

    old man with scythe, and the quotation: "Grow old
    along with me, the best is yet to be." Impossible,
    grand. The earth is beneath us. The birds watch us.
    The blade's shadow quietly cuts X from I.

     

    Published in The Boatloads (2008)

    Published: 24 November 2008
    © 2008 Dan Albergotti and Southern Spaces