I ask you to make sure
that I’m not buried
where I can hear cars.
This, walking to the edge
of Arlington Cemetery where the lawns,
still empty, are separated from a parkway
by a fence, motors roaring
through what was, a few steps back,
only birdsong flickering
through the scores
of small white stones.

“Or muzak either,” you say, squinting,
because we had to leave
a Sunglass Hut earlier–me nutty
about all-around sound–

“Even if I’m only, you know, ash,” I add.

It takes us a moment
to see that the fence is filled
with niches;
a woman sits cross-legged
on the sidewalk facing one, the only movement
the shimmer of her gold blouse.

Just then, a motorcycle fires,
rata-tat-tat, someone peeling away
too fast–ripping–so it feels, with the green stillness behind,
the woman’s stillness ahead–
the immense sky–Washington not
a tall city–

I try to find the bike,
but my eye is caught, instead,
in the light of the woman’s blouse, the unchanging rays
of each bent sleeve.

“So maybe it was good he died when he did.” I try a laugh.

You smile.

“I mean,” I say, “I know I won’t be able to hear anything,
but I’d just go bananas.”

You take my hand.


And here’s one for Kerry O’ Connor’s prompt on with real toads to write a vignette.  I do not know if this qualifies for Kerry’s wonderful prompt, but what I came up with.

As a process note, Arlington Cemetery is the Arlington National Cemetery, the US national military cemetery. It is an incredibly beautiful place, just on the other side of the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial and the Mall. In my photo, you can see the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the distance. The place we walked was beyond that single stone, which is quite unusual, as most of them are in lines and rows (and the grass is better tended.) My sense is that this one may actually be a marker for the beginning of the next grave area rather than an actually headstone.

Editing and uploading on iPhone from train where internet connection keeps giving out! Agh!!!! So posted before ready, and now in my office, and still uncertain–but, it’s a vignette, right? So, maybe I’ve even said too much—)

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15 Comments on “Vignette”

  1. Marian Says:

    nice. i like the shimmery sleeves reflecting the noisy/quiet scene.

  2. hedgewitch Says:

    Very atmospheric, and full of an Impressionist sort of feel for me–the way those painters used light to blur everything into shimmers– here, emotion and memory and ideas, so it’s all muddled as if looking through tears, yet still plain enough to see exactly what it is. Not expressing this well, but I think it’s a very effective vignette…I especially like the conversation, and the way being able to have that conversation gives a certain comfort. Or so I read.

  3. janehewey Says:

    Getting lost in the light from the woman’s gold sleeves makes the contrast of the sense of sound even more distinct, I think. Traffic and muzak– no thanks! Peaceful light playing sound much more restful. I quite enjoy the last line : )

  4. You have created a very authentic aura of time and place. The mood of memento mori is felt, perhaps more by focusing on the living than the dead. I think each little detail lifts this into the perfect vignette, and the conversation is an excellent finishing touch.

  5. Funny how it means so much to us while living where we shall be buried… but I think this is quite common and really I’m not sure what it is about. Wonderful writing, the images and sounds of the scene are so vivid.

  6. The image of where our dust will reside .. but still for the living it does make sense.. your picture of Arlington with that single stone is so different from what we usually see..

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes. I have some of the usual sort too, I was saving up to maybe use for some other poem. It is a very striking place. I mean to come visit shortly to your blog! k.

  7. Kim Nelson Says:

    I’ve been to Arlington Cemetery several times and you took me there in an entirely new way. Well done.

  8. gabrielle Says:

    This was a wonderful read! I was moved by the striking contrast between the stillness of the stones and the effulgent flutter of the woman’s sleeve. What a perfect backdrop for the playful yet by no means casual conversation about transience.

  9. brian miller Says:

    heh its an interesting conversation…when it comes my time i think i will just walk out into the woods and let nature take me back where she will…somewhere i can hear birdsong and little else….smiles…

  10. grapeling Says:

    for the blouse alone, this is a vignette, k. the rest surrounds and uplifts – and then that close – wonderful ~

  11. CC Champagne Says:

    This is such a vivid description of a place, an emotion (more than one, really) and a moment in time… Love it!

  12. Brendan Says:

    I’ve written several times about Arlington, in a sleeting New Year’s and then Memorial Day–bookends for a set of narratives about vets of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars–I glean my sense of it from the quiet still awe that reverbs through poems like this. A monumental sense of presence through absence, so productive of meditations as here, on one’s own mortality. There’s a section in Arlington for the dead of each war going back to, what is it? the Civil War? older? with space allowed for more wars and more dead. Those open spaces yet to be filled must surely make one think of interring there, close to a loved one; and the rituals of the living conducted there are, as you write so wonderfully here, like little memorial flags planted between memory and oblivion. If we hear on after death, can the loved ones we have lost hear us? I think we write sometimes thinking that they do. Thanks for this.

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