Saturday, May 02, 2015

Riker's Island by Diane Dehler

Riker’s Island is a public cemetery in New York where
inmates and the destitute of the city are buried.

Riker’s Island

On Rikers Island a
sloping field is set
aside for cremated
remains of those poor
and banished. 

Who perish
without the
cost of a funeral,
without provision
of mourning.

It is here
the poorest
of poor are
buried. Where
there is no coin.

 Simplicity of
adorns this

sleeps a
newborn child
never touched
or held.

His cry
was a voice
unheard; rain in
the eye of a
ruined flower.

Queen Anne’s
lace, royal
and proud in
its grief stands

His birth
was a red
poppy that
shredded and

His death a first
tragedy given to
his mother.  A first
cycle through a
season of fire.

The mother knew
his promise was only
of sorrow. Memory
cremated into bone 
and bleached.

Sad purity of
infants that starve
and die before they
open cornflower

so primal
and unselective
devours people
& countries.

belongs as
much to earth
as bone and

Sorrow lives on
Rikers Island,
with the first and
most tender ash
given to earth.

Diane Dehler

First published in Artemis Journal, Spring 2014

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