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FISHHEAD/S. E. Sciortino IT MAY SOUND ODD, but a large cemetery can reflect the optimism of the Uving. The spacious graveyard and the church beside it, with its substantial spire, belong to a time that was to be without end. Those who laid out the yard and raised the roof beUeved that wool and copper would continue to support prosperity and growth for countless generations, believed that they and their children and their children's chUdren aU would die here. But they didn't. Neither the copper and wool nor the kids and grandkids behaved as they should. The bottom feU out of both markets; the mines closed, and the sheep, along with a great many of their owners, disappeared from the landscape. A cemetery Uke that, both very old and very empty, is a curious, almost unsettling sight. You want to ask: Where are the dead? (The graveyard would certainly be better populated if the more than two hundred townsmen who went off and died for the sake of the Union had been buried in it, but their bodies are scattered around the country .) Here is a blighted necropolis. Vacant sections or those with only a few graves abut the ones with numerous markers, as if some fire or wrecking ball had only just finished its grim work. You can read the town's decline in the names and dates on the stones. The number of dead from families who originally purchased plots dwindles, sometimes to none, even as the dead increase, and so few new names appear after the war and the busts. True, in recent years the town has begun to grow again finally, but most of the new people are not born here; they are from somewhere else, and they tend to go back there when they're dead, sometimes sooner. Not everyone left town, though, and there are places in the yard where the dead of those families that remained find themselves in cramped quarters. Occasionally, when a family plot has become fuU, the descendants have purchased a new plot. Others have attempted to squat on land left by those who have not been heard from in over a century, but the Fathers frown on this practice. If the family in need of space is truly too poor, the parish may donate it, and sometimes , as in this instance, if there is more room in a plot than a family's projected dead can occupy, someone will give a body a home. This is how the small, granite marker bearing the surname Martin came to be separated from its kin. There is really—and anyone in town could tell you this—nothing odd about it at aU. 166 · The Missouri Review He was born Brian Whalen Martin, near the home ofhis family in the hamlet of Peavish Hollow, Vermont, in the droughty fall of 1961. His mother, Vera, was attended at the bedside by her older sister, Alene, as she had been for the births of the six previous Martin children. Those children had entered the world without complications, but this birth was a difficult one. Vera had not had a child in six years; she joked that she was just out of practice. Alene agreed she was just out of shape, no spring chicken anymore. Neither woman was fooled. When Alene realized they had a problem, she told Vera's husband to call the doctor, and no debating. Alene was an experienced midwife and recognized hemorrhaging. But they didn't have a phone, and Mot couldn't bring himseU to ask for the use of a neighbor's. (It was, he said, three miles away, and they might not even be home anyway, but of course they were—and even if they hadn't been he could have walked right in and used it; they would have understood.) So he drove the nine miles of mostly dirt roads into town to find Doctor Avery. Vera had lost a lot ofblood by the time they got there. Mot, the doctor and Alene packed up Vera in the doctor's car rather than wait for an ambulance and drove the thirty miles to the hospital...


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