Cardboard Cemetery

by Joanne Jagoda

I pass by them

on my way down the hill

to Safeway, or Peet's

names inscribed in simple block letters


draped on stunted trees in the median

or scrawled on cardboard “ grave” markers

in a makeshift cemetery on a small rise


excised by the cruel scalpel of racial injustice

their hollow voices cry out

to not be forgotten


Oskar Grant, Elijah McLain, Botham Jean, Alton Sterling, Brayla Stone


someone's lost child,

someone's missing lover,

someone's empty place at a family dinner


their legacy deserves to be  so much more

than signs that will wash out

when the  first rains come


I stop my car and pull over for a moment

drawn to this ersatz cardboard cemetery

a curious squirrel scampers among the “graves”


I pay my respects

sad for young lives cut short

and sad for our country

which has sunk so low