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Backyard

We had this
animal graveyard
set just far back enough
in our Clearing
so we didn’t have to be afraid
of all those furry ghosts, wandering ‘round in the cool, sharp Louisiana night and
seeking us out—their tiny patches of unkempt, crooked hairs
suffused with moonlight
cast up from the Palm Lake.

We buried our minds there, our memories,
unable to let slide the pulsing insecurity of feeling, fear; no
emotions at all
could be allowed to roam
with those shunned ghosts in The Woods. They must be buried—
the uplifting with the shattering,
like the weeds with the flowers and fruits,
from the rising daylight
till Momma said
the streetlights are on, come on inside for dinner.

We weren’t the only family with a
cemetery, I’ve found.
As the Clearing and The Woods turned to hazes of misremembered dreams and
days repressed or forgotten—and on the odd and empty day, fantasized about—
and as our animal ghosts continued to haunt us
well into the bloodshed of adolescence,
the bleak shield of adulthood,
the strange cadences and lulls of intermingling lives with others...
as we learned the beauty of our own wretched secrets and swamps,
found the silver in our sins,
I discovered

You mine around in others’ graves long enough,
you find their coal,
just as black and dirty as it is beautiful—
just as bleak,
and haunting,
and abashedly sinful and sweet
as the ghosts in your own backyard.

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