124. Lunch Time, At Walnut Creek Cemetery

3 miles South, 3½ West, of Glen Elder, KS, September 6, 1978, 7:30 p.m.

We have lunched here for years.  A tradition

chiseled from a landmark of bereavement,

an occurrence fixed by circumstance

and coincidence that we farm just across

the road.  Today, we are doing it again.

When mother arrives with the food,

she stops by the gate.  My brother and I park

our tractors, stretch our backs, and slap

the dust from our hands.  Dad and grandpa

join us.  Blankets unfurl like parachutes

and sink into the shade of evergreen trees.

We arrange ourselves onto the ground.

Then, just before the first bite of sandwich

or drink of iced-tea or lemonade, mother

does the proper thing and invites the dead

to join us.  We discuss her offer and joke

that others might find this odd.  We don’t care;

this place is comfortable, like a storage room

in an out-of-the-way part of the house

where we choose to open a window.

Fresh air accompanies a music of blue sky,

wind, buffalo grass and weeds —

and a few short rows of tombstones,

shelves lined with preserved points of time.

After lunch, we walk where the deceased

once walked, where neighbor ushered neighbor,

farmer after farmer, into the ground.  December 23,

1872—baby daughter.  January 16, 1873—son,

(same family).  August 11, 1891—dearest

mother.  May 3, 1884—loving wife.  March 20,

1880—kind father.  September 6, 1878—husband.

Infants, children, parents, grandparents.

Lifetimes weathered into ghosts

of assumption, their deaths a mystery.

Scarlet fever?  Pneumonia?  Diphtheria?

Influenza?  Childbirth?  The list lingers

with tragedy.  Unearthed, a mirage

of settlers idle around us—pioneers

consumed by a timeless circulation of crops,

plowed fields, and harvests that flow

around these boundaries.  After a while,

we all go back to work.  From a distance,

I continue to notice the dead.  Like long lost

friends, they meander and converse comfortably,

existing on our hospitality, happy

for a momentary taste of resurrection.

— Greg German

Greg German, was born and raised near Glen Elder, Kansas, where he farmed with his family for many years. He has been active within the Kansas literary scene for over 25 years including the development and oversight of http://www.kansaspoets.com. Currently, Greg resides with his family on the Caribbean island of Dominica where, amidst many other things, he is involved with the annual Nature Island Literary Festival. Greg’s poetry, all thematically tied to farming and rural Kansas, has appeared in numerous literary journals.


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