The whole village walks the hard pack
of arid steppe to the cemetery, to the river
where the ground is soft. The children do not
wait for the key, they slip between iron leaves,
a fencework of Orthodox crosses. They've all
brought bright woven blankets, blinchiky
with sour cream, and vodka. After they eat,
long shots are poured and left on the headstones
as gifts for the dead. Tomorrow, the children
will be sent to collect the empty glasses.
Careful, do not break these proofs of eternity.
Tonight, the old men will sneak back into
the cemetery, rob the grave-cooled spirits.
Make the old toast: To childhood. To death.
In the Absence of Clocks
Southern Illinois University Press