Grand Center, The Ephemeral

                               Section 3Iowa Township, Lincoln County, OK

Grand Center
Pop. 50 (1906)

1. Epitaph for an Unmarked Grave
In memory of
Celia Olson Pounds
daughter of Bertha Anderson Olson
born April 1872
in Hansingland, Sweden
married in Maysville Missouri
on September 26 1889
to George Benjamin Pounds
in 1891 delivered of a son named 
Thomas Franklin
in 1893
delivered of a son named Hans Allen
in 1894
delivered of a son named James William
in 1897
delivered of a daughter named 
Amanda Elizabeth
in 1898
delivered of twin girls named Early and Artie
in 1903
delivered of a son named John Anderson
in 1904
delivered of a son named Andrew Leland
on Tuesday March 20 1906 she returned
from Grand Center carrying a sack of feed
and was delivered of a stillborn daughter
on Friday three days later
she died in childbed
much lamented

2. Dewey Cemetery
spoken by Archie Pounds (1918-2004)
about 1992

Grandma, I never knew they put you here,
This swatch of pasture by the Guthrie road.
I should have guessed those cedars were for death,
But for all the years I drove these roads
I never knew there was a graveyard here.
Never asked about my grandma's grave?
My daddy growed up in this country,
He fiddled hoedowns 'round Carney and Merrick, 
But I growed up around Oak Grove.

It was my boy brought me out here today,
The August sun stuck low in the west,
The heat adhesive as a band-aid.
I beat the clump grass back with my cane,
But I didn't find your stone, Grandma.
I found Over, Swift, and Dwyer
Dewey, Dixon, Peebler, and Knight--
The monuments about a dozen,
The last dated 1907--
But I didn't find your name.  
And yet they put you here in the corner, 
And marked the plot with a stone.
Sandstone signals lives too frail for granite,
The frail and crumbly lives of farmers.

Now here's a stone:  David Kinder, 1810 to 1901.   
I knew some people by that name.
And here's the prayer they left for him:
rest father rest
the battle is over
the victory is wone

And your stone, Grandma?
I can tell what happened the same as I was here.
The rain beat the sandstone bare.
The crazy-making wind erased the words, 
Then mowers came, brush hogs broke the rock.
Some grandson piled the pieces in the fence.
Soil built up and suckers covered them,
Leavin you with post oak, blackjack, cedar,
Foxtails, cockleburs, and those milkweed flowers
That turn their battered faces to the sun.

And you, Grandma, dead at thirty-three,
Your dress now a suit of clinging clay
Down where it's black as Coley's butt.
Oak roots fiddle with your bones, 
Delvin like a husband's hand
Still lecherous in death,
Though the cradle of your pelvis
Broke in labor with the ninth.
White and brittle, the snapper clings 
To your side, no bigger than a rabbit.

It was not that the child could not thrive.
She was born with everything but the will--
That can be deformed just like a limb,
Or a woman old before her time.
Death smiled so gently on her,
Life could not get her attention.

From Sweden you came to a Missouri farm, 
And married a man with a limp, a love for cards,
And a gangrene gash in his foot from an ax.
Mama didn't like it when he stayed too long,
Said he got that leg 'cause he danced too much.
I looked in his suitcase once:  a nickel box of soda,
 A pitch deck, and Choice Reading for the Home
With a pledge to never drink or smoke, unsigned.
He lived to be seventy-nine, but you
Were thirty-three the raw March day you died.

Today we found the farm where you died
And your true stone there, the old front step 
Of your house--now filled with hay but still a house, 
Though off its foundation fifty feet away.
Inside the finishin boards said house, 
A nail wore a necklace of corn-binder gears.
Was it here death sewed his black seeds in your row?
You lie here half the globe away from home.  
Born in Sweden plump and golden, 
You died in Oklahoma white and thin.

I found your stone alright.  A quarried block 
Of limestone it'd take a team to move.
I beat the cockleburs back with my cane.
Worn by the wipin of your family's feet,
It told me plainer than any grave
Of the kitchen were you labored, of the feed 
They say you carried home in the full of your term, 
Of the corn-shuck pallet where you died.

The poor get no show when they die.
They bury you by the road, the cars scoot by 
And don't even see there's a graveyard here,
Or if they stop to look don't find your name.
It's a hell of a note, to live and die--
And my kids wonder why I sit and fret.
They don't know what trouble’s like.

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