by Leslie LaChance

They use a small John Deere backhoe now—
      Each week new pyramids of red dirt
The first time it startled me—the growling machine, the fast-growing pile of clay.
      As kids we’d known grave diggers at Trinity Place—
Our cement-ery, we’d called it, a real dead-end street, ha, ha, ha.
      Those huffing, red-faced men cut rectangles with quiet spades,
shooed us from the edge of fascination—we’d fall, they’d say, all the way to China.
      Sometimes before mourners arrived, we’d try out the folding chairs, the green awning—
Once Ronny clambered down an unwatched hole then couldn’t get out—
      The rest of us ran—we left him.
Who knew he’d be the first of us to die—freak blizzard, freak heart attack, shoveling snow—
      at 25?

Now, the sky over Mount Olive is busy with birds—
      Coal cars rattlebang their way south on the CSX.
Everything’s fringed in early spring, everything’s turned up.
      We make stories from markers to tell our lovers—
One for the handmade wood cross wrapped in tinsel gauds, others for the new bride,
      the Civil War dead, then the epidemic with its many lambs, most gone to moss now.
The burying ground holds two centuries, and there’s still room for more.
      Remembrance—the work of this life, so ordinary, geometric
the comfort of grass, trees, sound—the pull of things below.
      And who was first among those in somber suits to peer over the grave’s edge
and discover a small boy in corrective shoes, so pale, so scared, so tired from reaching up?     


Leslie LaChance’s poems have appeared in Broadsided, Juked, The
Greensboro Review
, Free Lunch, and elsewhere.  She grew up in the Hudson
River Valley of upstate New York and now lives amidst the cotton and soybean
fields of northwest Tennessee, where she studies yoga, teaches writing, and
works on community arts projects.  More information about LaChance is available
on her website at

On “Left”:   
It seems that no matter where I have lived, my house has always been
within walking distance of a cemetery.  It’s usually the most peaceful place
in the neighborhood, so I often find myself walking among the stones in
quiet contemplation.  The markers prompt imaginative narratives and
memories.  My aim in “Left” was to show how the past and present, memory
and imagination, abide together, intertwined, inseparable.  The landscape of
the cemetery is the physical realization of those connections.

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Apple Valley Review: A Journal of Contemporary Literature  
ISSN 1931-3888
Volume 4, Number 1 (Spring 2009)

Copyright © 2009 by Leah Browning, Editor.  
All future rights to material published in the
Apple Valley Review
are retained by the individual authors and artists.