At Rochman Memorial Park

This is what grief can build: wild playground fantasia
of stone dragons and wizard statuary, wannabe Merlins
scattered throughout this park complete with mock-

medieval castle, robed gnomes in pointy caps,
one knight ensconsed in a tree wielding both
spear and shield—all of this evidence of one family’s

loss, an almost-adult son whose photo hovers
over the wrought-iron donation box. Here
after years of driving past this greenery,

our shoes sink in spring mud as we squint
in late afternoon sun, mouths agape at what
we’d been too busy or serious or cynical

to see, content to ignore or disparage
that immense white unicorn visible
to the steady stream of cars hustling past.

Now I am ashamed to have been
this unkind, to have made fun of what
we’d never bothered to visit: thick-maned

lions fierce as Narnia’s, gargoyles stretching
fearsome wings, white-latticed Pegasus descended
here for the delight of children, derision

of adults.  Childless couple, who are we
to dispute this manner of mourning, pair
who will never bury a son or daughter,

never erect that headstone, much less a castle
awash in heraldry, more dragons roof-mounted
as if ready to spit fire, upbraid us for our callousness.

Still don’t believe in magic, but believe now the dead
can enthrall even the coldest of us, working through
those left behind who set these stones, honed these statues.

***

Allison Joseph lives, writes and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she’s part of the faculty in creative writing at Southern Illinois University.  She serves as editor of Crab Orchard Review, director of the SIUC MFA Program in Creative Writing, and director of the Young Writers Workshop, an annual conference for high school-aged writers. The author of six collections of poetry, she has received awards and fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council.

Also read Ode to the Naked Mole Rat.

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