A slate tombstone

John Gillies

Sacred to the memory of
Grace Inch
beloved wife of John Murray,
Slater in Biggar,
who died September 11th, 1870
aged 26 years

A pillar of plum-purple slate among the wind-blurred sandstones,
lichened granites, its hundred year history has left it cold:
the serifs still hard as a cry, bevels unsoftened -
the winter light still cuts as deep into her name and his. He knew
his slate all right - saw how it might be worked and heavy-honed - and how, even on this hilltop where the poplars fail to hold the driven rain, it could
stand like a lance against the day and dark. In that place where memories weather to comforting softness, details drown in overgrowth of grey irrelevance, this ruthlessly remains. All this he willed - yet overlooked
how granite and sandstone fall in grains like time; slate's layered like memory.
The rain has left no scar but ran its nails, probing in parallel, along the flank until, one autumn morning or biting winter night, the column cracked like fire.
Some memories abrade, some overgrow - he saw that right -
but there's another enemy that infiltrates invisibly
until the first hard frost opens the structure in a single cut.

Somebody, vaguely moved to do the right thing,
has propped the fractured cross against the plinth.

© Carlos Arredondo 2007