I like cemeteries. I like the quiet and sense of being removed from the rest of the mad world. I enjoy the company of the dead.
There are a lot cemeteries around here, over 90 family plots dotting the Secret City and the federal reservation, all predating WWII and the forced removal of families that inhabited these secluded valleys, before their farms and homes were condemned by the federal government in 1942 to make way for the Manhattan Project.
When I visit the old cemeteries, I feel sad in the presence of the many graves of infants. It seems that more infants died than survived. I'm haunted by graves of babies, children carried and born by mountain women year after year, only to die in their mothers' arms.
In the Rather Family cemetery on the federal reservation there is such a row of tiny graves, brothers and sisters that did not survive.
Sometimes I find myself pondering the lives of all those mothers of dead babies that lie sleeping in the old mountain cemeteries. I wonder how their poor, bereaved mothers were able to hang on to their sanity. Those hard working farm women must have been so worn down by grief and physical exhaustion.
Blessedly, I have been spared the sorrow they must have felt as their babies were buried one by one, yet it was in trying to imagine their sorrow that I wrote this poem.
Tiny birds flit through the slits of her dreams
Circling her pallet on pale tattered wings
Like dry rustling shadows, they bloom from her head
And whisper of babies born shriveled and dead
She dreams of wee fingers on wee perfect hands
Of blue rosebud lips that never drew breath
She dreams of wet rain and shifts 'neath her quilt
Her swollen breasts weeping with blue drops of milk
As silver blue moonlight falls on gray walls
The small cabin shudders, a whippoorwill calls
'Til bright Venus sails on clouds of faint dawn
And a doe with white tail gently nuzzles her fawn
In closing, I do want to announce that I'm coming out with a new Christmas album for the coming holiday season, a compilation primarily of southern Appalachian folk carols. It's in Nashville being mastered right now. This Christmas album is the fulfillment of a project I've dreamed about for a few years now. It's finally done and I am very, very pleased with the results!
As always, if you find anything here that makes your heart sing, I ask you to please share Dogwood Daughter with someone else. I have no advertising except for you and I thank YOU for coming.
Be Well and Good Luck,