The men in my family, the men I have loved, are in the cemetery now. I spent two days with them when I went home to New York. On the first day I rode my sister’s bike to the gravesite, being drawn by their spirits, like a bird migrating to its kind. An emotional damn broke as I held each gravestone and spoke with each spirit.

Excuse me, Could you spare a Kleenex?  I asked a woman only yards away.  I never meant to cry like this. I surprised myself.

She was typical of the pioneer farmwomen in our village.  Use your sleeve, that’s what I do.”   She raised her gnarled hand to demonstrate.  

As I fingered the gravestone of my father, an army of ants burst free, crawling up my arms in great red legions full of bites and stings. A warning from my father, I thought, even in death. Don’t get too close or you’ll get hurt.

I pulled out my sketchpad and rendered the way branches of white birch sheltered their tombstones. Now I had a visual reminder of the place the men in my life reside.

written 5-25-05