In the Mower’s Wake, by A.S. Coomer
I see a robot mowing the spaces between headstones at the sprawling cemetery just off New Hartford Road. Though I scan the rows of granite, sparkling like glass shards under the oppressive sun, I see no one with controls. I don’t know what I expect, a grave digger with a new toy? A proprietor, wallet fat with COVID profits, trying to weed out the need for a groundskeeper? Or are they humoring their mechanically inclined kid?
From the relative quiet of my pickup, I watch the way the mower glides along the even rows, doing its slow waltz over buried bones. I wonder if it’s a danse I could learn. Me and my two left feet, slumped shoulders, and downcast eyes, one-two, one-two, pivot, spin. I hum along with a melody distinct from the jazz coming through the speakers in my doors, but it’s off and I stop. This is something slower, not quite a dirge but definitely a funeral march’s kissing cousin. Even the grass got in on the action, flitting from the shoot to catch in the slight breeze and fall in graceless clumps that I could appreciate. You can almost hear the chorus of surrender as blades cut blades.
A honk from behind returns my attention to the road. The light changed, and a minivan full of children headed to the dance studio ahead inches closer. I take one last look at the mower gliding across all that green then, reluctantly, pull away. Part of me wants to turn into the parking lot and follow in the mower’s wake, a new funeral procession, picking up snatches of its song of leveling. Maybe open my tentative jaws and see if the melody would take root next to crown and filling. But I’ve never been good at singing the songs of others.
As I drive towards the guitar shop to replace some dead strings, I can’t help but notice the weedy yards surrounding the identical, forty-year-old houses—all flecks of peeling white paint and crooked, ripped screen doors banging out a rhythm I can’t follow—are yellowed, sunburnt from twenty days without rain. Despite straining ears and rolled down windows, I can’t hear anything faintly resembling music now, just a rusted gate grating groans. I could whistle, but what a cliché.
A.S. Coomer is a writer and musician. His books include Birth of a Monster, Memorabilia, The Fetishists, Shining the Light, The Devil’s Gospel, Misdeeds, and several others. His recordings include Rural Eminence Volumes I, II, and III, Goddamn it Anyway, Badlands, Old Fort Sessions, Late Nights in Philpot, and several others. He runs Lost, Long Gone, Forgotten Records, a “record label” for poetry, and co-edits Cocklebur Press, a small poetry press for “books that stick.”