The Albuquerque Graveyard
It would be easier
to bury our dead
at the corner lot.
No need to wake
take three buses,
walk two blocks,
search at the rear
of the cemetery,
to come upon the familiar names
with wilted flowers and patience.
But now I am here again.
After so many years
of coming here,
passing the sealed mausoleums,
the pretentious brooks and springs,
the white, sturdy limestone crosses,
the pattern of the place is clear to me.
I am going back to the Black limbo,
an unwritten history
of our own tensions.
The dead lie here
in a hierarchy of small defeats.
I can almost see the leaders smile,
ashamed now of standing
at the head of those
who lie tangled
at the edge of the cemetery
still ready to curse and rage
as I do.
Here, I stop by the imitative cross
of one who stocked his parlor
with pictures of Robeson,
and would boom down the days,
dreaming of Othello's robes.
I say he never bothered me,
and forgive his frightened singing.
Here, I stop by the simple mound
of a woman who taught me
spelling on the sly,
parsing my tongue
to make me fit for her own dreams.
I could go on all day,
unhappily recognizing small heroes,
discontent with finding them here,
reproaches to my own failings.
Uneasy, I search the names
and simple mounds I call my own,
abruptly drop my wilted flowers,
and turn for home.
From SELECTED POEMS OF JAY WRIGHT (Princeton Univ. Press, 1987)