Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day Three, Poem #3 - Whistle Past the Graveyard

Whistle Past the Graveyard
NaPoWriMo #3– scared yet?

A dozen girls run in circles
stomping the warm asphalt of a
church parking lot
coltish legs bolting from under
Brownie uniforms
long hair whipping across
open-mouthed laughter.
Their bodies make long
shadows that chase them
then run ahead
then twist around
to chase them again.

I am number thirteen,
the odd-one-out,
who gets saddled with the
campfire construction
while the leaders are
fixing orange kool-aid and removing
generic duplex cookies from
thundering plastic trays
in the cold basement kitchen
behind fire doors.

To finish the fire cone
I need twigs, I need leaves
and the only trees are
across the street
beyond four lanes of traffic
and up iron-gated stairs
to the shady cemetery that is
so old it was here before the road,
before the sidewalk,
before the town, it seems.

My parents tell me there are
no such thing as ghosts
but my great aunt has told me
to whistle past the cemetery
so the spirits won’t follow me
and even on the hottest July days
I feel the cold breeze fall down the hill
and spill over on me and I think
that this must be them, that I
have not whistled loud enough
or long enough or carried enough
of a tune to distract them.
I have to run each and every time,
tennis shoes slapping the concrete
like crows wings swooping down.

With resolve I start to cross the road
toward the gate, looking both ways once,
twice, three times as I feel the tune bubbling up
to pursed lips. Whistle. Go on. Whistle.

And not once did the spirits get me.
Not a single chill reached out to take my hand.
I carried the song like I was taught.
And lived.

From the prompt to examine and describe a fear


  1. Love the whistling! I could hear it and see the ghosts coming down the hill. Great descriptions!

  2. Enjoyed the vivid imagery.

  3. truly poetic that flowed so well.... also took me back to the brownies.... next time i visit the graves i too shall whistle very loud and remember this eloquent play... in posse

  4. Great poem. Can see the girls playing, with their hair flying in their faces, and I can hear you whistling while your sneakers are flapping away on the sidewalk.

  5. Love the fourth verse, it actually made me feel slightly queasy.