Image courtesy Adelaide Cemeteries Authority (www.aca.sa.gov.au).
Day 15 and it's the half-way mark. Today, some lovely poem-y friends and I went to Cheltenham Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Adelaide. This poem is an early capture of some of my ideas from the visit.
Notes from Cheltenham Cemetery
Here in Cheltenham Cemetery, graves marked
with pale blond sandstone and polished marble
shimmer in caustic sun.
Simple announcements and elaborate shrines,
artificial bouquets and gold-lettered monuments
are evidence of thousands mourned
and then there are the weathered stones:
no traces remain.
beloved husband of Annie Sheeran
died Feb 24 1895 aged 30 years
also Annie, daughter of the above,
died Feb 27 1895 aged 4 years
It's peaceful here
there’s a resigned gravitas
like that which follows a thunderstorm
or a terrible loss
and you try to imagine
Annie Sheeran in the harsh light
burying her young husband James
and a few days later,
her four-year-old daughter Annie
and the traffic sounds die away
and factory sounds fade
and the birdsong becomes stronger.
The elements have had their way with this place.
Along the edges of the path, gum tree roots push the earth to offer up its catch
while elsewhere, the ground has sunk into coffin-sized hollows,
sucking headstones and grave markers with it,
making room for more stratification:
layers of dead
on layers of dead
on layers of dead.
Barbara Joan Heyward,
aged 7 years and 8 months, accidentally killed
The deadly sun and sharp sky
offer no relief
to the ordered rows of
names    names    names    names
dates    dates    dates    dates
in loving memory of    in loving memory of
and jar with the mayhem of
lives lived, celebrated, mourned and forgotten here
and you try to imagine Edward and Joan
burying Barbara, aged seven, accidentally killed.
Here, in the shade of a tree, a modest car is parked
and an elderly woman and her son polish the black stone
of a grave, place fresh daffodils in the jar
on the fresh-turned, dry red dust
and I think of Kilmurray Cemetery
where my father and mother rest,
on the other side of the world,
the earth there is so lush
compared to the thirsty earth here
but it makes no difference:
the end is the same.