Estan Rodriguez

Exhumation in Whitby

You could say it’s the wispy & the cirrus-streaked
envelope of sky that holds your every mumble close,
closer to the stars, up out of the ground. Or maybe
it’s the stray cats who saunter by
the construction site outside the stained-glass
cathedral windows, where pawprints live in the open
once the cement dries. And you could say the memories
pressed into the stone here are a homely kind
of dead. Tombstones and their eroded letters
can still be visited by a lonely cat or widow, unlike piled bodies
seeping blood into the river and sea after Troy
crumbled— Palinurus’s unburied soul agonized
for a shrine, but would’ve settled for settling
under thinly-scattered sediment. All to say:
a sunken, near-forgotten plot of earth & moss is better than
no grave at all.

Mudslides are like recalling
drives by the state fair on a hometown visit
in a way you can’t quite grasp until
the flash flood hugs close the hillside graveyard
and tumbles with it to your front door. Among the debris,
gleaming starkly ivory through soil smudges, is
               a human femur.
That is all, but that is enough
to lift up from the shards of a decomposed casket
all those things you thought were buried.

Maybe graveyards don’t host a ceremony of solace
as permanent as you thought. Maybe
a mudslide can tell you everything you need to know
about the “promise” of eternal rest. Remains
can find you long after you have grown used to
the overgrown patches where they reside. If we dug graves
to the fiery core of Earth and led every skeleton
down shafts to definite destruction, then no shallow-
buried dead could wander from their graves
when the land shifts. But there’s no way to dig so deep
without burning up in the process. And, God knows,
there will be more mudslides.

Estan Rodriguez (he/him) is a young poet living in northern Virginia. His work is published or forthcoming in Cathartic Lit., Paper Crane Journal, Cloudy Mag, as well as others. He was a mentee at the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and currently edits poetry for Cloudscent Literary Journal. You can try to find him birdwatching on Saturday mornings, but he walks quietly and doesn’t leave a trace. He reckons he’s about a fifth of the way through life, so he’ll wait until he’s finished to write a review.

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