Nick McRae


When I see a fresh grave torn into the ground,
I consider everything that has made it possible:
Immigrant workers,
the flashings of anonymous shovels, the shovelmakers,
the industry of writing checks
and the paper and ink that feed it.
Least of all some unfortunate family.

Though, at Giza there exists a graveyard
for those who fell atop the Pyramid,
who, ropes across their chests,
were crushed under the colossal weight of the sun.
Even slavemasters bury their dead.

Five thousand men died
constructing the Great Pyramid.
An entire nation sweated to bury one man.
Some would call this tragedy.


My assumption is this:
that somewhere a dog plods through the woods,
comes upon a body, sprawled under brambles,
takes his mouthful, noticing the sky through the branches.
I wish, now, to see those leaves,
the way the body’s open wounds cling to them,
as though to take them into the flesh.

There are three essential differences
between the buried and the unburied.
First, that a dandelion might grow.
Second, that a dog should go hungry.
The third is that they are the same.


Irish mobsters in New York hung their dead up on meat hooks to cure,
or tossed them piece by piece into the Hudson in trash bags.
In doing so, it is important to tear out the lungs.
Otherwise, the torso will not sink.
One man lamented into the camera,
I forgot to tear out the fucking lungs.


In all of this, one thing remains—
that to die is to be torn from the body,
to be sprawled in deep shade,
or to be planted carefully in the glorious,
nearly impossible sun.

How wonderful, to shoot up
from the earth as a carrot flower.

Always remember this.
That the body is a question
one must come to oneself,
one that begs to be held up to the light
like a carrot,
turned in your hand
and tasted.
You could spend more than a lifetime
hovering over the vegetable bin.




This poem started as a description of a certain graveyard in my hometown in North Georgia where, instead of headstones, stand hundreds upon hundreds of glow-in-the-dark crosses. It is extremely strange and, to be honest, a little eerie. As you can see, though, that particular image didn't make it into the poem.