I see an old Swedish woman on her knees
by a gravestone. There is a small towel draped
over her left shoulder. At her left side there is a bucket.
In the bucket there is soapy water and a brush. I watch her
take the brush and scrub, slowly at first, then harder
and faster, harder and faster. She sees me watching her.
I nod. She nods in return. I smile slightly. She does not smile
in return. I imagine asking her why she cleans the gravestone.
I imagine asking her if she is okay, knowing her efforts are
in vain – no matter how hard she scrubs, no matter how well
she cleans, no matter how often she visits, what lies buried still
decomposes, becomes one with the earth; even the gravestone
will one day surrender to the dirt. I say nothing.
Later, I go back. She is gone. I look at the scrubbed stone,
read what is written there. I begin to talk to the dirt. I say,
I found a flower earlier. I brought it for you. Here.
I place the flower in the soil. I imagine an old woman smiling.