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