is the gateway.
A tranquil triangle of
weeping beech and over-
spilling oak, flanked on 3 sides
by ever-extended terraces and new flats
and more new flats and a coaching inn that came
out as a gay bar then an ice-cream parlour and sits empty
(for now). And a pub where you could buy weed but not stay for drinks.
Somehow, this verdant maze escapes busy days of commuters and passers-by.
Me and the wee man (and the odd alcoholic) meander among the Dearly Departed.
Those stones still-standing host 50 shades of green and lean towards committal; their vestigial
lead letters abdicating in droves—unvoicing their losses. The soon-to-be forever-forgotten Rest
in Peace beneath forget-me-nots, nettles and chimney pots.
Sarah Slaughter—Sadly Missed daughter of George and Violet.
Mary Eighteen, fell asleep aged 16. Sun-bleached plastic flowers claim she was once
My wee man clambers on crumbling epitaphs and stuffs coloured stones in his pockets hurtles
Sweet Joan, called to her heavenly home. A tender and devoted mother. Ugh.
Florence Fanny Cooper, aged 32. Beloved wife of Oliver. Her stone achingly absent of the
My spinning son leaps across plots and stops only to right a toppled memorial vase. Dearest
Dad. He duly deposits coloured stones from his pockets.
An armless angel prays with another who is smothered in ivy—they transcend scattered cans of
Fanta and San Miguel.
Here, behind Mary Wienholt’s vault is a secret place.
We crunch inside and kneel in the heavy, dappled quiet of a cedar.
A huddle of gravestones stands immemorial, un-eroded and ivy-free.
They declare Never Forgotten and Peace Perfect Peace.
Interstices of light and shadow create flowers forever.
He fumbles in his pockets but we are not alone.
A shush of light follows a muntjac deer; she stops in her tracks—silhouetted and steaming.
His mouth is a breathless O.
Wide eyes meet wild eyes.
For one long second, they are fast.
For one long perfect second they are everything that is breathing and beating and being before
she skitters off.
Inside a busy traffic junction lies a battered two-hundred-year-old cemetery full of forgotten souls,
broken angels and faded plastic flowers.
Underneath a cedar tree is a neat pile of coloured stones.
Biography: Charlotte has loved reading poetry for many years and has dabbled but has only been writing in earnest since joining an online poetry writing group during lockdown. This poem was featured on Radio Berkshire She has lived in Reading since 1995 when she came to research (temporarily) at the University of Reading.
Context: This poem was in response to a writing group prompt about Pastoral poetry and the old cemetery at Cemetery Junction in Reading was a natural subject. Charlotte and her son spent a lot of time wandering round the old cemetery when they lived nearby. The events described in this poem are true-ish.