Same one we'd keptin the garage
or in the toolshedmy whole life, same
loose handle, same tarnishedblade. I'd seen my father
sharpen it on the bench grinder,sparks flying, to cut
through roots or hardenedsoil. Same one I'd used
to replant our overgrowngeraniums one spring,
from the front of the houseto the back lot. Now,
I'm riding shotgun,my sister in the back seat,
the box withhis ashes in her lap.
To the small familycemetery, to bury
our dead. My father.How big to make the hole, [End Page 177]
how deep? That same jumpingmotion as when
I was a kid, samefeet to the blade,
my whole weight pushingfurther into ground. Taking turns
to move the dirt, openingthe box, and cutting open
the bag they'd put him in.I think of the later
months, his sick bodyand failing organs,
distended belly. How he grewso weak, and so foreign—
all that remainsare the bones,
ground to pebbles.My sister asks,
Is it weird if I wantto touch them?
We all do.
Running our handsthrough the rough sand,
our closest thingto him. I take the tool [End Page 178]
by its rough handle,pile over the dirt,
make even. [End Page 179]
Jim Whiteside is the author of a chapbook of poems, Writing Your Name on the Glass (Bull City Press, 2019). His poems have received support from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he earned his MFA. Jim's recent poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, and Washington Square Review. Originally from Cookeville, Tennessee, he lives in Madison, Wisconsin.