My Grandfather's Grave
William Miller

My Grandfather's Grave

The sky was bleached stone,
the grass yellow in the ditches.
I drove two hours out of my way
to find a gate, locked or not.

He died six years before I was born,
a man I saw only once in a casket,
a picture someone took to prove
he was dead, not out there

still drinking moonshine. He broke
my grandmother’s jaw,
pushed her out in the snow.
Only middle age, late middle age,

questions a ghost, an old woman
hooked to a green oxygen tank,
breathing through a plastic mask.
She winced at the sound of his name . . . .

Propped open by a brick, the gate
swung inside when touched.
My father and aunt said he never
hit them, brought rock candy

home in a paper sack, read stories
from a child’s Bible between binges.
But they were ghosts themselves,
stoned on vodka or valium,

bottles and pill boxes always
within reach . . . . I walked slowly
through a maze of stones,
found his near the back fence.

Half-choked by kudzu vines,
brown in winter, his name was
my name, the dates of a short life
sad runes.

At least I cleaned it, vines pulled
like roots, the deepest roots
in red clay: “Father, Husband,
Heart of Gold.”

William Miller

is the author, most recently, of the poetry collection Lee Circle, published by Shanti Arts Press in June 2019. His poems have appeared in Flint Hills Review, The Anglican Theological Review, Crossways (Ireland), and Dappled Things, among other journals. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.