Poem: Halloween at St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Cemetery

By: Chuck Orloski


When I am hurt & when I have given hurt,
& in order to expel sorrow & shame,
I go (unmasked) for long walks
in my favorite cemetery.
There I sing songs to hundreds of dead
who sometimes offer dry-eyed relief
but they never join the chorus
after I shout (off key) lyrics,
“… to tell the story how great a love can be!” *

But an impaled Redeemer chimed in,
“Son, this is my land, this is your land,”
& I could not help but trespass upon
secure graves, those without headstone, flowers.

Soon after doing three penitent laps
around the cemetery, I came upon Kayla, 14,
a freshman at Scranton High School.
Two younger sisters at home,
she sat alone (in a yoga position);
she talked obsessively on a Tracphone,
& wept bitterly at grandma’s grave.

Can you hear Kayla cry?
Her tears scared no one beneath dirt
& I wanted to add minutes
to her precious Tracphone.

Intruder-in-search of solace am I –
Kayla said “It’s OK if you want to sit, Mister.”
Her grandma died in August 2001,
& just two months ago, Kayla explained
how her mother “could not fight-off
infections from a liver transplant,
& before Thanksgiving, my mommy’s
ashes will lay beside grandma’s.”

Life gets rather hard for
“running-on-empty” school bus drivers,
& time-to-time, not quite grown up,
I get impulses to kill sickness & death.
Will anyone alive come aboard my bus?

Tingling, merely a couple feet from Kayla,
I sat on butt, the cemetery grass wet & cold.
She could not stop crying,
and I could not bring mother to her.
Kayla’s tears dripped upon Tracphone
and I feared for the device’s mortal battery.

In goofy distraction from Kayla’s wails,
and aware that I could not stop grief,
I distanced myself & recalled
this morning’s Wall Street Journal headline,
“U.S. to send Special Forces to Syria.”
Over here, over there, Promised Oilfields or Bust!
Do ISIS commandos dress-up for Halloween,
& employ multiple doubles like Saddam did?

It’s barbiturate Halloween, Empire All Saints,
& all one needs are treats & pills to relax.
The Scranton dead wear old fashioned costumes
& they’ll never come knocking
at the Border Patrol door.
“O lonely Kayla, can you sing a love song for me?”
She could not… perhaps she’s reasonably
frightened about meeting vagrant monsters
among the monuments?

Having run out of theology,
I smiled once more & tried to console Kayla,
told her “Grandma and mom’s really alive,”
& with a disconsolate gift of 3 Dead Presidents,
I said, “bye-bye sweetheart,” & strutted uphill
into St. Mary’s bright cemetery skyline.

* From “Theme From Love Song (Where do I begin?),” written by Carl Sigman, 1970.

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