Brooklyn Boro

Opinions & Observations: Solace at the Cemetery: Three Days Amidst the Corona Pandemic

April 13, 2020 Todd Friedman

Day 1

I have come to Green-Wood Cemetery
Seeking solace. I like to get lost here.
If you walk in deep enough, the buildings
Disappear and you can be by yourself
For a long time. The robins are back.
The warblers are back. The vibrant pink
Magnolia and cherry trees are back.
I sit on a bench listening to a warbler
Singing her song. But then the sirens
Pierce the air, breaking my reverie,
And I start heading toward the front gate.

It is a raw March morning, but others
Are here as well. On sunny days they come
Streaming in. Parents with strollers. Some bring
Their children to play at the pondside.
The kids throw sticks in the water and
Chase each other around. I wonder
If they know why they are here.

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And now I come upon the graves of the
Prentiss brothers who fought on opposite sides
In the Civil War. Wounded in the same battle,
They embraced before it was too late.
I turn and see a thin yellow streamer
At the water’s edge. I know it says “caution,”
But I walk up to it to find out why.
A slab of the concrete embankment
Has broken next to the pond.
It is a small sign, but it looms large.

Day 2

My wife and I are here to celebrate
Our anniversary. We picnic on a bench
And look down at the harbor. We wander
Among the mausoleums, peering in
At the stained glass. Then we cross the road
Into the class divide—many of the tombstones
A foot or two high, leaning or fallen over,
The writing washed away. I think of today’s
Rich and famous getting tested—
Even without symptoms—while others
Must wait in critical condition.
But we are here to celebrate so we walk
Hand in hand and sit down watching a woman
Singing opera for herself across the pond.
A beautiful blue woodpecker lands
In a nearby tree. At one point we have a small spat,
But when we come to the spot where we will be buried,
We make it a point not to argue.
Later we hug and hold hands again.

Day 3

Today I walk to Battle Hill, the highest
Point in the borough. Right here, just blocks
From my house, the Battle of Brooklyn once raged.
Now a new kind of battle rages as the sirens
Scream so loud. This is no time for bravado.
This is no time for showmanship. Only
Science and sanity will get us through this.
I stand next to Minerva as she salutes
The Statue of Liberty. These two have
Seen so much. I shudder to think
What else they will witness.

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Now I see more of my neighbors
Walking on these Green-Wood paths as the
Cemetery has thrown open all of its gates.
We nod a quick hello and keep on going.
New York has many distinctions but
Corona epicenter is one we never wanted.
I walk out the front gate and see that
Someone has painted in bold letters
On a large planter across the street:
“LOVE WILL KEEP US APART.”
There’s always a joker. We need that too.

Todd Friedman is a retired Brooklyn high school English teacher.  He is active in Brooklyn Poets where he gathers with fellow poets online during this time.


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