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Brett Rutherford has given new life to the genre of the “graveyard poem.” In this bracing collection of 31 works, what started as a mere poetic journal of odd “things seen” grew into a broad collection of descriptive and narrative poems about tombs, burials, exhumations, and the gatherings of admirers at the graves of famous writers and artists. Read the Macbeth-like saga of a Japanese warlord who buried the ears of 100,000 Korean victims; the uneasy burials and re-burials of Goethe and Leonardo da Vinci; sightings of cemetery sleep-walkers and mausoleum robbers; the oak tree that consumed the bones of a witch-trial judge in Salem; and the story of Pittsburgh’s radioactive millionaire, sealed in a lead-lined coffin in Allegheny Cemetery. In a “verse mystery,” the poet reveals the confrontation between Edgar Allan Poe and The Spectre of St. John’s Churchyard in 1848 Providence. Although Pennsylvania graveyards give rise to some of the most atmospheric works in this volume, Things Seen in Graveyards also includes visits to Hart Island (the Potter’s Field of New York City), Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, Lovecraft’s grave in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, the cursed ground of Aceldema in Israel, a burial shrine in Kyoto, and the loneliest cemetery in the world in the Atacama Desert of Chile. Spectral, satirical, romantic, supernatural and transcendental, these poems will make your skeleton dance and sing.  This is an expanded second edition of this work, with many of the original poems revised or expanded, and eight new poems added.


At Salem
the burying ground
is a garden of stones,
an orchard of oaks.
Acorns burst to grow,
tombstones erase
their shallow tattoos,
becoming anonymous —
Death’s heads
and angel wings,
bad poems
consumed by moss,
the promise of Heaven
like Confederate money.

Still there is some
justice — an oak trunk
engulfs the stone
of a solemn Puritan,
roots clinging like
rabid dogs.

He doomed the innocent
as witches and wizards,
to infamy and hanging,
to a farmyard burial
in family shame.

Imagine this —
his grave invaded
by inexorable roots,
the frail box split,
his gradual awakening
as vampire tendrils
invade his ears,
his mouth, his nostrils,
the circling of taproot
to snap his neck,
his arms and legs
broken and useless.

Doomed to immortal
(the Life Eternal!),
nerves and ganglia
a web of pain receptors/

An old woman
condemned him to this.
She spoke the words
on a Candlemas midnight,
took from the hanging tree
where her mother’s mother
died innocent,
the patient acorn of revenge.

She wrote his name on it,
pushed it with thumb
into the loam of his grave,
traced runes in blood
upon his stone,

danced the wild dance
of his resurrection —
sang things that the wizened
old ladies of Salem never knew

as there were no witches
in Salem

This is the 229th publication of The Poet's Press. 116 pages, illustrated. 6 x 9 inches, paperback. ISBN 978-0922558889. $12.95. CLICK HERE to order the paperback from Amazon.

Also available as a PDF e-book. To order and download from Payhip, CLICK HERE.


Version 24. Updated February 24, 2024.

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