Bryan R. Monte
On finding my great-great-grandfather’s grave
I missed your headstone that first afternoon,
its worn engraving stained by frost roses,
encrusted with yellow-green lichen blooms,
the short, soft, grey marker
wedged into a thin, middle column
of single graves for single men or widowers
who died decades after their wives,
bordered by larger, family and matrimonial plots,
covered with horizontal, polished, pink or gray marble slabs
as big as double beds with round, stone bolsters.
The blazing, blinding sun pounded my head
as daredevil, little grey-green lizards dived
under tombstones or into the cool brush
before my wheels crunching down white gravel aisles.
But now on a cooler, overcast morning,
looking from the side, I recognize your name
below a worn angel etched in the stone,
its bowed head resting in its left hand,
its right on a headstone within your own.
I rub your name, nato and morto, with wax onto paper,
then photograph the shadowy inscription
to obtain a copy of your death certificate
at the town hall down the road
to send to my American cousins.
Outside the cemetery gate, the road north
has a view of the snowy Alps
to the west, the Lago Maggiore laps
lazily at the village’s private beach
where a tanned, thin, middle-aged couple
sunbathe during their two-hour, afternoon riposo.
I sit in a café in the town square
in the shade, drink a hot, frothy coffee,
eat a sweet and tart lemon chicken and avocado sandwich,
feel the cool, glacial-fed, lake breeze caress my face
and finally know where I will rest.