Looking for Rabbi Alexander's Grave

Cloudshadow snags tussocks and scree

down the listing hillside.

Roped into helping Dad

look for the grave of a rabbi

who taught him in his childhood

anxious to please

we slither across the unthreaded slope

with no reason to look anywhere

in particular: tiny pebble tumuli

show the search for some was easier.

 

Perhaps there was some sort of map,

kilter or ken

for those who lived in the town below,

but in our care to avoid barely distinguishable plots

we blunder over still more ancient graves.

 

The grass serrations keen,

the wind holding a single note

against the hillside’s arc.

 

The wind holds the note low and taut

like a movement of musicians’ hands

that makes you aware how long that note has been held

for how many years that note held you

turning your face

to a past it had become hard to interrogate,

a note catching on sudden vistas

between tilting rows

fraying against time

that tells us of itself in stone.

Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology 2008