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.