All souls guide this serpentine
tour of memorials,
starting from Friendsville Cemetery,
managed by the Westfield Township trustees
in Medina County, Ohio
where my father, Lester, lies
next to his in-laws, my maternal grandparents.
One plot is reserved for Mom.
The red and blue highways on the Rand McNally
intersect, a double-helix of my ancestry,
they snake over
the map to Richwood Cemetery,
a hillside that birthed the town’s municipal graveyard.
Ora, my father’s father, unmet by me,
lies next to his twice-widowed partner,
Vergie, who joined him 35 years later,
with first-born, Leonard, below them.
My trail of graves continues a few miles north,
Powers Cemetery, hiding
among oak and poplar along Cranberry Ridge,
the settlement of Coe, West Virginia on the Nicholas-Webster County line.
Three of my eight great-grandparents, a Civil War veteran,
his teen bride, and a moonshiner
lie beneath sandstone markers, inscriptions
scratched nearly illegible by 96 years
of wind, dry as the shed
skin of a copperhead
below the hemlocks that shade them.
Years ago, Leslie Williams told me
how to get here, but cautioned,
“Watch out for the rattlers.”
Hours west near the banks
of the Ohio,
a family boneyard of nearly 15 deceased,
disappeared among the woods.
But I was there, so was the red-head
pileated woodpecker, tapping a blue
racer’s white egg,
guarding the sacred ground.
My great-grandfather’s youngest brother,
George Washington, might lie near their father,
John Adams Coe, who willed he be buried
unmarked so “nobody bothers him.”
NOVEMBER: A Poem in 30 Days
in memory of the last month of life of Lester C Coe (1925-1978)