The night I couldn’t find my mother’s grave, I cried into my collar. The cemetery had grown, bloated in a way that only spirits could tolerate. Mortals, they’d have complained about the hassle, all of that dust and noise. I noticed how new stretches of road had been paved, and how fresh blades of grass had sprouted where trees had been downed. And the oaks and maples that remained had shot up even more; their encroaching branches pressed against the sky, had formed a canopy to choke out the moon. Flattened tombstones spied through the collecting debris of leaves and twigs, erasing names, dates, any trace of existence. My mother’s grave was also flat, and even though it lived in the same shadows as my father’s, it had been lost. Blocked by towering tombstones, ostentatious even, as if to flash the family’s wealth even in the afterlife.
To find my mother’s grave, I used a mausoleum as a marker. Though more stone houses had been built, and they all looked the same. I imagined the souls locked inside yearning for the last few of their kind to join. Holding their empty breaths each time a key dug into the lock of their wrought iron door. Who had died this time, they’d say. Had they been granted a moment–time to say goodbye, to accept that this was the end? Or had life been snatched away in one lonely heart beat?
I imagine the souls in the mausoleum that I depended on, the one I’d trusted to guide me to the grave. In a collective whisper, they’d say, If only we could blow you a breeze, one strong enough to hold back the branches that shut out the light. Let the moon guide you to your mother.
Susan holds an MA in Education and an MFA from Hamline University. She has been published in various on-line and print journals, including Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Schuylkill Valley Journal. She lives in St. Paul with her family, where the animals outnumber the people. @SusanTriemert.