A Normal Grave

“As bright and affectionate a Daughter as ever God with His Image blest”

– 1871 epitaph for Florence Irene Ford in Natchez, Mississippi

By Sharon Whitehill

Florence Irene Ford, a child 
once so frightened of thunder
she clung to her mother whenever it stormed.
Her headstone bears a carved wreath,
at the foot an urn on stacked blocks;

A traditional grave but for a trap door behind it 
that gapes, a mechanical maw
with rust on its palate, hinges like teeth
clogged with clumps of dead grass, 
and five concrete stairs down its craw
with risers and treads too crumbled with age
to stave off invasion by galinsoga, 
gallant-soldier plant, green in a crevice.

A chasm the size of the tomb,
concrete walls dappled with damp
like an abstract of monochrome blots.
A six foot descent to a window of glass
with a view of a little girl’s casket.

A stark anteroom excavated 
so a mother could comfort her child    
in the belly of death.

Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, her publications include two biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems.

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