Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015

Passing the Potrero Graveyard

by Steve Kowit

It isn’t often I see someone in that little country graveyard
on Potrero Valley Road, but this morning as I drove past,
two women, each clutching a bouquet of flowers, were walking
toward a polished granite headstone in that solemn
& deliberate way that people walk when visiting their dead.
An hour earlier you’d left for Minneapolis. Your folks,
in their mid-eighties now, are clearly failing. When you get in,
they’ll fuss & laugh: perhaps the last time in this world you’ll
ever see them. I think of that baronial Jewish cemetery back
in New Jersey where my parents are laid to rest. For a moment,
driving through the Barrett Hills, I long to be there, kneeling
where they lie, to kiss their graves &, weeping, tell them that I—
well, you know the stuff that people always say, as if the dead
were lying there awake & listening. Dearest, I already miss you.
For a week I’ll try to stop complaining—though it’s my nature—
& make do: I’ll pour birdseed in the feeders for the finches
& grosbeaks & jays, remembering how vulnerable all of us are
& how briefly everything exists. I’ll feed our furry little
sweethearts & make certain Wally has his final dose of Baytril
& take Jesse for his walks—that slow, difficult circle he makes
these days around our modest property—& hide his Tramadol
& Chondroflex in glops of cream cheese, per your instructions,
& as I promised, every second day I’ll water the tomatoes & the
jasmine & the bougainvillea & roses & ice plant & the crape myrtle.


—From Cherish, Steve Kowit’s final collection of poems (University of Tampa Press, October 2015); appears here by permission of Mary Kowit and the publisher

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury