Erasure

By DAVID LIVEWELL

High up on fire escapes the schoolgirls clapped
erasers, chalk dust floating in a cloud,
the words and numbers scripted by the nuns
freed to autumnal treetops. Often girls
would stamp their names in chalk on the brick walls,
reminding us, like ashes, “dust to dust.”
Beneath this task the cemetery slept,
the Celtic crosses propped like dolmens on
a quiet glen in County Clare. Down steps
was the boys’ bathroom, just an outdoor shed
that froze in winter, stunk in spring. We feared
the dead might clench our ankles till they pulled
us down into their moss-furred crypts. When running
the slated path from school to shed, we glimpsed
a chiseled Irish name or cherub face that rain
and time attempted to erase. I sensed
the corpses’ slow decay, small piles of chalk,
the former schoolboys damned to run no more.

David Livewell is the author of Shackamaxon, winner of the 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize from Truman State University Press.

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Erasure

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