“I’ve spent a lifetime 
trying to learn the language of the dead”

~ Jim Harrison from “Sister” in  Songs of Unreason


In the graveyard they lie

cool and peaceful, undisturbed

by us walking there—so we deny,

forget they suffered, dying, the verb.


What is the language they speak–

they in their graves, and we strolling by

reading a headstone, what truth do we seek–

once she lived, now hear the sigh


of ghosts who wander just out of sight–

that shadow there behind the tree

you almost see, a dress of white–

and wonder now, memories or fantasy?









This is for Day 15 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, poetry inspired by Jim Harrison’s poetry. We’re just over halfway through, but you can still join in the fun.

I’m also linking this to Open Link Night at dVerse.

36 thoughts on “Unquiet

  1. Some might think it morbid, but I like walking through older cemeteries, totally dispassionate, enjoying the lines and structures of monuments and stones – sometimes reading, and maybe imagining – as I take photos of those lines (both text and structure). But a cemetery that is familiar, with its connection to my memories… now there my mind takes me in unexpected (perhaps expected) directions. Your poem took me there.

    • Thanks so much, Ken. I’m glad my poem took you somewhere.
      I don’t have any cemeteries with family connections, but there are some that I’ve wandered through many times. I do like to walk through old cemeteries.

  2. “the verb” !! You evoked that feeling you get when you think you see something move out of the corner of your eye but when you turn there is nothing there. Nice! (Happy Weekend!)

  3. A grave write. And yet, brilliantly, you avoided the maudlin. What do they say about us as we walk past? With what language do they query, mock, or lament?

  4. There are many stories below the cemetery’s surface. Each person has a history – even those that no one is alive who even knows of their existence. Well done, Merril!

    • Yes, you are right, Björn. It’s probably both. 😉
      When we walked in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, we saw a groundhog sunning itself on a tombstone–it had a burrow under a grave.

  5. Love your precise and measured style here Merril – avery successful piece which was a pleasure to read – I will be back for more…

  6. This reminds me so much of my own walks through cemeteries, catching something out of the corner of my eye, wondering if the dead are wandering. And now you have me wondering if they speak to each other (and if so, as you asked, what language do they speak).

  7. Ah, ghosts and spirits, floating white dress. . . somehow I feel unreasonably reassured by their voices and whispers. These may be found in graveyards, empty homes, and halls of universities and churches.

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