An Early Winter

Your stone is sunk deep,
dry, twisted grass hides the edges –
it no longer shines in the noonday sun,
covered with wind-blown dust,
– filling the carefully etched words.
I sweep away enough,
one handful or two – small
piles,… mounds at each side,
today your stone will shine,
shine on this dark, cold day.
The leaves crunch beneath me
as I sit, stretching my legs before me.
We can talk for awhile –
watching the clouds wisp gracefully.
I pull at the strands,
clearing one edge, my fingers gritty –
nails caked brown,… but I smile.
– Today your stone will shine –

We talk more,… work,… vacation –
but conversation dwindles to
birds chirping in the trees.
As usual, my thoughts turn angry,
outrage quietly replaced with emptiness –
I can’t help but fidget, feeling the
cold earth beneath me.
Another side is cleaned, the
clumps of sod piled neatly nearby.
– Today your stone will shine –

Always the tears come,
I can never say when –
I hold my breath and swallow hard,
all to keep control,
– precious control –
I look away, as if at something interesting,
but you’re not fooled,… never.
Minutes consumed, they pass painfully –
and we continue our time together,
sharing more now than ever before,
– you listen well –
Another crisp edge comes to life,
one of my fingers cut on the sharp stone.
– Today your stone will shine –
Seems colder than last year,
– cold for October –
maybe it’s just the clouds,
I’m caught in their shadow.
A car drives slowly past, quietly
rolling among the rows –
reminding me it’s almost time to go,
just one more edge,
one last cleaning,
before the snow.
– Today your stone will shine –

I make my goodbyes to your
crisp, dark marker – pulling my coat tight.
Yes, it is cold for October,
but it seems,
… for me,
winter starts this time, each year.

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