cemiterio da ajuda
— john mateer
We would expect families to be living in the vaults,
so many are small stone houses with painted doors and curtained windows,
the coffins mirror-smooth and on bunks along two walls,
and there are fewer than have been abandoned
on any street in an actual city. Through one grimy window
I see a shelf like a mantelpiece with framed photos
of a woman as a child and as a teenager and then of her as a bridesmaid.
On the clean floor there’s a line of yellow teddy-bears
and in a darkened corner, encircled by fallen petals, a vase of roses.
Why am I looking in on this sadness? In another vault,
across from the grey dusty coffins, broken shelves;
and in another, a monochrome studio-portrait of the entire family
as would be hung with pride above a matriarch’s bed.
Why am I weeping again as I never do in my adopted country?
Why, as I am wandering the streets of memorial homes and cenotaphs,
hiding in the shade of Cyprus trees charred by the noon sun?
When I cross paths with the three old women bundled in their black,
they don’t murmur Bom dia. To them I am less than the dead,
not even a curator of remains, not even a ghost-writer – a tourist.
I’m sick of this. I can’t stop weeping.