The grave was dug almost five feet deep,
Barely two feet wide,
Maybe two-and-a-half feet long.
Steve and I sweated over that grave,
Blistering our hands,
Breaking his heart.
The product of his seed would be planted there,
A day-old son he never saw.
He had never wanted a child,
But when Marylou left him
She took more than her clothes.
A son, premature, but strong
Except for bad lungs.
Steve didn’t know what to think.
At first he was pretty excited,
It’s not every day you have a son,
Even though he’ll call some other dude dad.
The birthday was a good day.
The next, as I awoke and shuffled to the head,
I passed Steve, sobbing, telephone clutched in his shaking hand.
His baby had died unexpectedly in the night –
Damn the night!
Steve was in a fog for days,
Almost found his way out,
But then the minister of the tiny
Episcopal church down the road
Asked if Steve would dig the grave.
“After all, it was your kid,” he said.
“It will save Marylou some money.”
We dug that grave,
Four hours in the hot sun,
Ninety degrees, no shade,
With shovels, pickax,
Fence post digger,
Smoothing the sides,
Perfect ninety degree angles,
Making ready for what the minister called
“The big send off.”
As if the baby’s soul was going to wait
For his blessings before it hiked to Heaven.
Dirty and tired, we left,
Met the funeral party at the graveyard gate
As we returned the minister’s tools.
We spoke civilly, Marylou looked good.
We went home, washed and took naps.
The funeral went on without us,
I had another poem
And Steve had done his penance.
By David Allen