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.