Mea Culpa in Lexington Cemetery 
poetry by Kevin Nance

Two and a half centuries have scrubbed your names 
off the oldest gravestones the way streams rub pebbles 
smooth in a riverbed. Elsewhere moss & lichen 

cover the engraved words like shrouds. Sometimes
you’re obscured where your crosses & obelisks 
have been tilted by the roots of a sycamore pressing up 

through your bones. Here & there the willows bend 
low enough to touch you with their many hands, 
their fingertips straining to decipher the fading braille 

of your epitaphs—Beloved Husband, Devoted Wife
No one else gets half as near, least of all the groundskeepers 
who know a losing battle when they see one. Your people 

& their people & their people lie beside you now, 
their names still legible though give it time. Turns out
even limestone is no match for the lathe of eternity. Ah

well. Accept this apology, please, and console yourself. 
Remember how beautiful you were at the end, your eyes 
flickering like the candles burning down by your beds? 

So too these stone headboards at whose feet you sleep 
so soundly, fine antiques still acquiring their high patina 
by the hour & the day & the year.

North Carolina native Kevin Nance is a freelance writer and photographer in Lexington, Kentucky, and has often reported on people and events in Appalachia for the Lexington Herald-Leader, The Tennessean and other publications. Kevin's poetry has appeared or is upcoming in literary journals over the past four decades, including Appalachian Review, The North American Review, Poet Lore, and Cumberland Poetry Review, which awarded him the Robert Penn Warren Poetry Prize in 2003. Kevin's two collections of photographs and haiku are Even If (University of Kentucky Arts in HealthCare, 2020) and Midnight (Act of Power Press, 2022). He's a co-host, with Linda Bryant and Jay McCoy, of Kentucky Writers Roundtable, a literary talk show on RadioLex. 

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