Early in the morning

of the day we bury my father-in-law’s ashes,
rain falls at last after a week of dulling

heat, then clears up just before the drive
to the cemetery in Niles. We pass the Polish
bakeries, and St. Joseph the Betrothed

Ukrainian Catholic Church with its thirteen
slightly faded gold domes symbolizing the twelve
apostles and Jesus— and I think this is possibly

the first time I’ve seen any reference to Joseph as
“The Betrothed.” This seems a fitting discovery,
an accidental motif: for my immigrant father-

in-law could be said to have worked at several
trades, and also was a canny do-it-yourselfer:
for his wife he built a wooden step-stool

and refinished the floors of the duplex
where he and his family have lived for almost four
decades. This is the house with yellow siding,

a gargoyle on the front stoop, a small area in back
that doubles as a spare room, enough for some storage
boxes and one cot. My third older daughter and I

fit into it many years ago, when she was about 7;
perhaps the letters faintly spelling out her name
in pencil are still there, somewhere on the wall

where she wrote them. Don’t we all harbor a wish
to leave part of ourselves behind, to find a ledge
on the rock the tribe calls home? At the cemetery

office, everyone has gathered. It’s a short distance
to the section where numbered family plots have been
purchased, and the priest is ready with a baton

of holy water for the prayers and blessing.
We stand in a semicircle facing the hole in the ground
where the wooden urn, encased in a protective box,

is lowered; then take turns dropping flowers
into the grave. It is such a long way from
his hometown across the sea— One could plot

the miles, but never the loops that bind life
after life after life to another. Now, dirt fills in all
the gaps; eventually, grass will border the marker.

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