The Ballard Baptist Cemetery Plot #56
to my grandfather

By Jill McGrath

The casket sits under a lump of flowers, rain
pulling branches low, puddles everywhere.
We're all sitting mannequins
knee to knee in squeaky
fold-out chairs, courtesy of Wiggens & Sons,
and the pastor's intoning prayers. When Grandma moans,
Uncle Ted tells her to stop. I can't take my eyes
off the casket, so huge, black,
so shiny, our faces reflecting
there long, distorted.
Everybody shivers.

The wind makes the plastic skirts blow wild
crackling out from the table
and I want these damp green trees, grass, and us holding each other
and at least circling this stone,
this heart, telling stories over & over.
I want the wind on grass,
trees' soft wailings, an open sky,
to leave behind the somber pendulous droop of this
"out of the toils and tribulations to a better heavenly life" pastor,
the casket like a boat I'm traveling
to nowhere maybe all the places you've seen

and a crowd of stars to keep me
still through black, emptiness, the space too long
between our voices, this field of rain
drowning all amens.


My name is Jill McGrath. I am a poet, a native Seattleite, as well as a teacher and mother. I have had a chapbook published by Still Waters Press in 1991. I continue to write as much as I can, while simultaneously juggling mothering and work (as an editor). I have traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, including a year spent living in Kathmandu and working as an editor, and I am currently polishing a poetry manuscript inspired by these journeys.


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