Though used interchangeably, as with most
synonyms there is a denotative
as well as a connotative difference
between a graveyard and a cemetery.

A graveyard rests beside a church: one
wanders from the pews and pulpit to visit
the still members of his congregation.

But one usually enters a cemetery
under a vine-covered arch, or sometimes
between pillars of brick and mortar
with carriage lights atop each.

There are gardens and religious
monuments, statues of saints, perhaps
a loose philosopher behind an old cedar,
and reflecting pools and winding paths
to be walked while introspecting.

Headstones mark the graves
of those laid to rest next to another with
whom they’ve likely never had a conversation,
much less an argument about Jesus,
and never will henceforth. Heaven.

Poet’s Note

"Synonyms" is from The Vine Temple, my chapbook forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in February 2023. To my surprise, I’ve come to primarily think of myself as a poet of place, though my place isn’t a region; rather my place is within the circumference of a few miles of my home that I’ve made with my family in an old country church built before the American Civil War and which sets next to a humble graveyard. What I’ve learned is that this place stirs my imagination so completely with ideas of faith, death, the supernatural, nature, fairness, memory, and history that I can write about whatever I’d like even while staying within what I suppose many would consider tight boundaries.