by Dani Sandal
The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
“Rubaiyat of Amar Khayyam”
mine. When he was alive, I’d stomped atop
his red-dirt grave and not even known it.
What’s it mean? The Boy asked, pointing
to marker, bleached and tilted, draped
in Kudzu rooted to earth. Seven, my only
one, his mind a perpetual quest for answers
to darker things, things that made a liar
of me. In airy depth, my words filled
space about sturdiness of stone, how it
outlasts and symbolizes
what is gone. No, he sighed, running that
tiny finger through etched dates.
I requested a pebble placed in pockets
during our walk — tossed it cross twelve
graves. From here to there. The in-between
is hyphen. The in-between is life.
Is that all? I shrugged, More or Less.
Thinking he couldn’t grasp the tail-end
of it, till he wailed, Will you put something
besides some crummy line on my rock?
Something grand? I bent low, told him
not to sweat it. I’d put down whatever
his desire. Not allowing him to face the day
he’d grace the ceiling of my grave
like an Angelo cherub seeking his lost
Venus. But that was years ago.
And I was wrong. Now, the hyphen is the paper
boy streaking past my porch at dawn,
backpack weighted with daily and battering
headlines of new but ancient battles.
Headlines of death, more sturdy than stone.
The hyphen is the echo of a child’s laughter,
slipping through kinder dreams. Some nights
when God has tossed a handful of diamonds
down the mine to Heaven’s floor, the hyphen
is space a bullet travels in war,
before it opens a young man’s chest —
like a sanguinary star.
Dani Sandal spent many of her summers as a child in Meridian, Mississippi, catching catfish and lining out a hymn on Sundays. She attended graduate school at George Mason University in Virginia lives on an island in the Puget Sound. She is the past recipient of GMA’s Heritage Award in Fiction and the Text and Community Award in Fiction for blue collar voices in Virginia. She had a great time as the fiction editor for So To Speak, and now you can read her work in the Raleigh Review (forthcoming), Adirondack Review, PANK, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Stirring, Monkeybicycle and Phoebe. This poem is about a road trip she and her son took to Mississippi to meet his great aunt. “We made a stop at some grand old cemetery in Canton,” she says. “Here, I noticed many stones with dates ending in the ’60s and early ’70s, all boys of the tender ages of 19-20. Having a son, my heart broke for the mothers of these boys who most likely perished in the Vietnam War.”