Sandstone and Slate

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September 23, 2020 by The Citron Review

by Jennifer Stewart Miller


My ancestor John Mulford, of Eastham, MA, died on April 20, 1730, in his 59th year. In old photographs, his gravestone bears an unusual decoration of a winged head resting on a winged skull. But the gritty details on the red sandstone have weathered away—on my knees, I can just make out swirls of scrollwork, the words HERE and YEAR OF, and the numerals 7 and 0. Tiny snowflakes of white lichens dot the stone—as the sandstone melts, these flakes will grow.

Close by, the thick grey slate of his first wife provides a different habitat. She died before him, but the death’s head chiseled on her stone is still vivid, and the particulars remain clear: JAMIMA/ MULFORD, WIFE TO/ Mr JOHN MULFORD/ DEC’D MAY Ye 8th/ 1723 IN Ye 57th/ YEAR OF HER AGE. By my calculation, when they married, she was older than he was by maybe five years. But in stone years, she looks much younger. Even the lichens dotting her slate are green.


Jennifer Stewart Miller’s manuscript Thief is the winner of the 2020 Grayson Books Poetry Prize. She is also the author of A Fox Appears: a biography of a boy in haiku (2015) and a chapbook, The Strangers Burial Ground (Seven Kitchens Press 2020). Recent work has appeared in Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, DIALOGIST, RHINO, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. Her poems have received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations and been featured on Verse Daily.


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