Here lies Octavia (1875-1888)
I breathe out the dandelion seeds
and roll in the hay bales
I push up the ryegrass
to grip their roots.
I run my scarred hands
in the thistle nests
and pat the ruts to keep them worn.
Dust rouges my cheeks
as I swing around the peeling tree trunks.
I’ve watched you
since the devil gripped my foot in the stirrup.
You have also absorbed death
between each sunset for a century.
I wish you could hear my song
and your laughter could
echo with mine,
that we still had a life
among these slaty hills.
this is nowhere for the living.
© Melissa Currence 2015
This poem came together because of Halloween and listening to my mother’s stories about our family. She retold me the story of Octavia, who died when she was 13 years old after a horse riding accident. This picture is of her gravestone from 2013, 125 years after she died.
While the idea of the poem came together quickly, I worked on it for days. Since each word choice is so important in a poem, I can drive me crazy trying to search for the right one. I find if I am editing a poem a lot, I often have to look at the first draft to remember what I was trying to say.
What is your editing process? Let me know in the comments.