Sometimes the kindness of others changes everything we know about the world, about humanity. This poem, published on January 4, 2023 in the incredible online journal Vox Populi, shares an encounter in the cemetery that broke me wide open with its tenderness. I think of our blood-soaked history, of our fear-full present. Then I think of Kristen in the cemetery, and I think, this, too, is what humans are capable of.
An Open Thank You Letter to Kristen Who Works at the Cemetery
Her smile was clear sky, was green grass,
was slender stream of waterfall.
Her smile said, You are welcome here.
Her smile said, You are not alone.
She waved to me as I climbed the hill
to sit by the grave of my son and she offered
to water the flowers I’d brought from the garden.
Her offer was pink snapdragon, was orange marigold,
was golden calendula. Her offer said,
There are some things we can do.
Her offer said, I see you.
Thank you, I said. Thank you
for taking care of this place.
I looked around at the trim lawn,
the lovely, well-cared for space
where we bring our dead.
She shrugged and smiled and said,
We love Finn, and backed away,
her right hand pressed to her heart,
her eyes embracing mine.
There are moments so flooded with tenderness
every wall around our heart collapses
from the beauty of it,
and we are left wet and trembling, like newborns.
There are moments when we are so naked
love enters us completely, shakes us from within
and wrecks us, and there,
in the rubble of our defenses
we fall so deeply in love with life,
with the goodness of people,
we are remade.
When I left, she blew me a kiss.
I caught it. Twelve hours later,
I still cradle that kiss in my hand.
–Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer