The colored cemetery
perched on slanted ground
at the far edge of the county line;
the back rows of plots shared borders
with our high school,
and any ball thrown too long
was a dead ball.
Ancient willows stood weeping guard
along the invisible boundary,
their burdened branches dripped moss
the color and texture of elderly lace.
The only visitors there were as
ancient as the willow guards,
but not as weepy.
Several venerable black ladies
of the old order,
all wearing the bright reds and dull greens
of the matriarchal aged.
They spent whole days when they came,
intent on their solemn rite of service,
pruning and weeding,
polishing stone with handfuls of red clay.
We would see them when we played out
our own rites of service
in frequent summer practice games;
and though we never spoke,
or waved a hand in friendly respect,
they always brought our footballs back;
placed in orderly piles at the feet
of the willow guards.