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Myrtletown Cemetery 

The long-dead doze beneath me, their stones

set close against the overgrown earth, sheathed

in centuries of lichen and the moss of lost hope.

Next to the carved names, on each marker

appear the words, Native of, and their country

as if these teachers, doctors and speculators,

who set off in uncertain caravans of wagons

or traversed the fresh-laid tracks of the West

to reach this place of lush, verdant promise,

also knew that death never lets us forget who

we are, where we come from, no matter how far

from home we find ourselves. In the end, perhaps

they had to admit that nothing in our California

could measure up to the gridded simplicity

of cities in the East, the familiar black forests

of Bavaria, or neighbors who spoke their language.

When they whisper to me now in the muffled

wind, I listen to a litany of fevers, failed claims,

all the hard knocks that leave us useless nuggets

of regret for following all of our wildest prospects.

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James Crews

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