In the old cemetery head down,
cobbles and fallen branches
wait in the fog to trip him.
The gray newborn sky matches stones
medieval and modern, matches the scarf
tied warmly around his neck.
He counts steps as he always does,
no matter the season, but this is his favorite
time—the thawing of fields harmonizing
with the smoke of his breath, another day,
another year of steps in a quiet morning,
a few scattered chirps far away, horses
snorting on the other side of the stacked rock-wall,
the boundary between the dead and the living.
He detects the scent of perfume and sadness
from yesterday’s service, a young widow,
black net guarding her face like an underworld
wedding veil, umbrella acting as cane to ward off
the threat of weather, mourners crowded
around to offer what comfort they can.
She just wants to go home and listen to them
from upstairs—veil folded like a memorial flag,
stockings unfurled, small Waterford glass
of anything, and a sleeping pill. No drama.
He’ll step often in this direction until the perfume fades,
part of his daily constitutional. His old doctor
warned him well—ten-thousand steps a day or your next birthday
will be your wake. As much as he loves entertaining,
he enjoys a toast and song—but doesn’t want to be the reason
for fourteen church-lady casseroles in his freezer,
awkward family meeting at his attorney’s spare office,
the division of nothing amidst no one. And so he walks.
All that is left is his faith in ten-thousand, the footfalls
of loping deer, headstones in icy winter, and the last song
hanging in empty air, his bold baritone in the chorus.