Shady Grove by Tamara Burross Grisanti

Late autumn afternoons spent in the campestral resting place of our ancestors, a cove down a long, twisting gravel road between the bluffs. I love how the tiny cemetery is named Shady Grove, and how it is exactly that—a clearing in the thick woods beneath the massive shades of the surrounding forest. The sun dapples the graves where my great-grandparents are buried. There is the Osage orange tree by the chapel, the granite-flung shadows in the churchyard. I whisper the hymn as they dream: we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

I watch our childhood shadows frolic about, giving chase to tumbling bouquets and sprays, careful never to tread on ground that is raised. The shadows’ laughter echoes back from the forked boughs of birches. The trunks absorb the timbres, transmit them deep below ground, down the reaches of roots, reminding our ancestors lain there, asleep in the great rhizome of the dead, that we have come back.

Indeed, that part of us never left. Just outside the graveyard, woods are wilderness again. Silk flowers caught in the underbrush; a gust has blown them from the graves of their intended. The ground, carpeted in copper, springs back from our footsteps. I enter the ruined church. Forgotten pulpit, red clay to rotten floor planks, the time-grayed pews inscribed with prayers whispered thereupon. Frayed, yellowed hymnal with torn, creased cover. How its spine, too, turns to dust, slips from my grasp.

Tamara Burross Grisanti is the assistant editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal). Her fiction and poetry appear in New World Writing. She lives in Buffalo, NY.