Fort Snelling National Cemetery

You wouldn’t have fit in here, either. Riding the train alone again, I stood at a window and watched the landscape. Hotels, prairies, fields of smoldering rubble—I don’t actually remember what came before these hundred thousand graves pricked in green pincushion. I stepped out into intermittent spasms of morning sunlight and realized my mistake: the headstones had looked better in motion. Robins hopped from one to the next like crossing a river. Any happy person off the street could waltz right into this wide open. Top-heavy men spread grass seed in underperforming dirt. Flowers sprouted here and there, yellow and pink filaments hot from morning’s seizures. I couldn’t take in all this surface at once. I wanted a cold glass of beer, the kind that costs nothing, that you piss without regret. But I’ve lied about the men. As a matter of fact, they swung backhoes that teemed with shovelfuls of topsoil. Their work lacked the delicacy of sprinkling seed, of grass’ quiet rupture. You and I, we weren’t built for work like this. They want this thing green all the way through like a golf course, so these grey-white stones really pop. Dizzy from the redundancy of dying, I lay in a circle of bare poles flagellating themselves where the stars and stripes should have been. Halyards plucked and slapped the gutbucket song of their own emptiness.

Keith Carver is originally from Michigan, but lives in Turkey now, near the Black Sea. He is working on a collection of poems about leaving America.

Photography by Jury S. Judge.