Artifactual

This entry is part 11 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems

Faceless statue

When a relationship dies, what happens
to the orphaned plus sign?
Might it live on as a cemetery cross
marking some otherwise dubious grave?
At one time it could’ve been reborn as
a TV antenna mast or the minimal
skeleton of a scarecrow. Now
even crossroads seem archaic,
& a crucifix is a piece of jewelry
to finger in times of stress,
finger & twirl on its chain
around the neck — a thing humans wear
instead of a bell.
In extreme cases, the plus sign
can lose its vertical axis
& merge with the horizon,
beyond which, as we know,
there’s nothing but subtraction.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

7 Comments


    1. Thanks. Those last lines are a good example of what can happen when you set a poem aside for a while, as the experts advise. I went off and visited Facebook for a half hour until the subtraction idea popped into my head. I’m not saying there’s necessarily a connection…

      Reply

  1. I always set my poems aside for awhile — after I post them.

    Wonderful meditation here. I particularly like “even crossroads seem archaic.” And the thought (and sound) of a scarecrow’s skeleton, not to mention the “scare” with the skeleton’s connotation. Perfect fit in a graveyard. And the idea of a scarecrow’s skeleton moves us to the last line’s reduction.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Peter — I’m glad this worked so well for you. My initial impulse with the crossroads reference was to say something about cloverleaf interchanges, but I’m glad I resisted the tempation to over-explain.

      Reply

  2. Solid images of things to hold on to when there is only dying and death at the end of the journey. Particularly liked the plus sign for gravestone cross, TV antenna, scare crow mast, the crossroads, the crucifix as jewelry — all apropos to the orphaned plus sign. Ultimately, would the plus become a minus sign, a subtraction? A nothing? Nada y pues nada. Bravo, Dave.

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    1. Thanks, Albert. I wasn’t sure it would all hold together without seeming too sententious, but in the end I guess it did.

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      1. THE LOST MARKER

        It will remain silent, an abandoned artifact,
        a gravestone cross for the perching raven
        that would be a swoop away from its repast
        before sundown, before it croaks for more,
        this yard being empty except for these stones
        wrapped in tumbleweed or lost in bramble.

        It has fallen on its side at the foot of the hill
        looking limp like a discarded scarecrow
        that has outlived its usefulness, a totem pole
        piled with the debris of unclaimed markers
        bereft of its stories of happy hunting grounds:
        it is a forgotten memento like that on Golgotha.

        It is a mere plus sign now as equations have it,
        no added trappings, simply subtracted ones,
        like a dangling crucifix on the ‘hood boy’s
        neck, it is just a bling now, gold hung on gem
        stones eked out from scorched quarries by yet
        younger boys who would not know the difference.

        —Albert B. Casuga
        07-19-11

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