The Grave of Ilias Venezis

A name carved on a tomb catches my eye—
Ilias Venezis. It was here in this village
the writer died, and we live on the lane
named after him, a steep and crooked lane
that becomes a torrent when it rains.

                                         The tomb
lid—surely there’s a better word?—the marble
slab, is askew. Could be vandalism, could
be someone monkeying with the bones.

here is only natural, and when the flesh
has had time to fall away from the bone, men take
the clean bones and pack them in a cheap crate
and stack it in the listing shack, along with
other boxes of bones, rakes and shovels
and watering cans made from old olive oil

                    Rot is only natural—the sooner the better,
after your soul is gone. Three years they give
you, depending on the wetness of the winters,
then they dig you up and toss you into the shack
with the cock-eyed roof, where wooden crates are piled
every which way, some broken, with bones spilling
out of them.

                    Bones here tend to go astray.
Many end up in pastures next to the graveyard,
along with flowers from plastic bouquets,
and the red ribbons which identify the givers—
UNCLE or whatever painted on in clumsy
gold letters.

                    Some are tied now round the necks
of sheep to hold the bells that bang and clunk
as a young girl chases the herd. She laughs
and says the silly sheep with their ribbons
look like shag rugs ready to walk into a house
and lay down on the floor to be Christmas presents.
by Joe Smith