Natalie Homer Gravedigging, 5:00am

“Death is a mystery, and burial is a secret.” – Stephen King, Pet Sematary

I catch my breath in the humid dark,

the rain unsure of itself

and the insects, anonymous, pinching vaguely at my arms, nudging me on.

As periwinkle folds its wings on the night, I hurry

so the kids at the church preschool next door

won’t ask what I’m doing.

My shovel reveals red roots

buried wires, live I think,arteries

in the damp dirt that is so much more accommodating

than the dust of the west.


In Bannack, Montana

we sat in antique schoolroom desks,

peered out the narrow windows of the Hotel Meade,

and my sister asked, If this is a ghost town, where are the graves?

This morning I woke at 4:00,

the kitten I found yesterday by my shoulder.

She had soiled herself

and when I lifted her head, there was only weight.

I transferred her body to a towel,

and washed her,

as one might with a wedding ring.


I bring her outside in a plastic Walmart bag

but can’t bear the way it looks in the ground

like trash

so I unwrap it

and when I pick her up, the body curls gently

into a gray circle, a cat moon, a lone satellite

in the earth.

An order replays in the echoing caves

of my ear or brain:

Take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground.

Across the street, the ambulances test their sirens in short whoops.

On my knee: a red ant. Winged.

Some insects move so quickly but without grace.

From the window, my tomcat watches,

his eyes golden,

jewel-bright moons.

I wonder if he knows, then think

he must.

He must.

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