Winthrop Cemetery
Austin Segrest

Winthrop Cemetery

The cemetery was on a hill—no,
was a hill unto itself. Then I decided
maybe it was a dune.
The stones were tall and thin,
many unreadable,
not that I was giving it much of a try.
On one, the façade had cracked off,
all but a corner. On another,
moss grew in the etching
like an anaesthetized tongue.
Apparently, someone in the 18th century
established the trend of marking their ages
down to the day. There was a tricentennial
plaque for four Pilgrim kids
who drowned: Hannah, James . . . I can’t remember.
Their names sounded good together.
There were many stones for drownings.
Vague, needle-matted, the trail
wound and bumped around haphazardly.
A little graveyard on a little hill.
What can you do when you live on sand,
I thought. Your little hill will rove,
carrying the dead around inside it.
But then I noticed the pine trees
everywhere, their antic green
crawling with cones.
Pitch pines, I read, hardly grow
after ninety years—
wind-pruned, bent
like Akhmatova’s nose.

Austin Segrest

is the author of Door to Remain, winner of the 2021 Vassar Miller Prize for Poetry. Born and raised in Alabama, he teaches at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.