Old Burying Hill, Marlborough, MA

by Shannon Ward

If there is a path, it is covered in snow.

I walk, stiff-cold, for over an hour, looking with my father

for our ancestors’ graves.

It is my nineteenth birthday, and I haven’t yet

taught myself to stop pretending we are fine,

we are fine.

His mismarked map leads to a plaque

that promises our dead are buried along that road,

so we pace among rows of peeling houses

as the northwest wind burns our skin.

Then a shop owner shows us whose yard to cut through

to climb to Spring Hill Cemetery,

where lies Elizabeth Ward, 1613 – 1700,

great-grandmother of Artemas Ward, the first general

in the American Revolution,

who commanded the Battle of Bunker Hill

from a sick-bed, sipping soup while soldiers fought and died.

My father salutes a small flag by the grave as I snap

a photograph to commemorate this pilgrimage,

our footpaths through the snow to these granite shrines,

this bloodline that binds and binds.

Shannon Ward, who teaches at Methodist University in Fayetteville, moved to the South in 2002. A distant cousin of Artemas Ward, she earned her MFA in creative writing at N.C. State.