Visiting My Gravesite: Talbott Churchyard, West Virginia

By Irene McKinney 1939–2012 Irene McKinney
Maybe because I was married and felt secure and dead
at once, I listened to my father’s urgings about “the future”

and bought this double plot on the hillside with a view
of the bare white church, the old elms, and the creek below.

I plan now to use both plots, luxuriantly spreading out
in the middle of a big double bed. —But no,

finally, my burial has nothing to do with marriage, this lying here
in these same bones will be as real as anything I can imagine

for who I’ll be then, as real as anything undergone, going back
and forth to “the world” out there, and here to this one spot

on earth I really know. Once I came in fast and low
in a little plane and when I looked down at the church,

the trees I’ve felt with my hands, the neighbors’ houses
and the family farm, and I saw how tiny what I loved or knew was,

it was like my children going on with their plans and griefs
at a distance and nothing I could do about it. But I wanted

to reach down and pat it, while letting it know
I wouldn’t interfere for the world, the world being

everything this isn’t, this unknown buried in the known.

Irene McKinney, “Visiting My Gravesite: Talbott Churchyard, West Virginia” from Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976-2004. Copyright © 2009 by Irene McKinney. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976-2004 (Red Hen Press, 2009)

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Poet Irene McKinney 1939–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Nature, The Body, Religion, Faith & Doubt

Biography

The daughter of a schoolteacher, poet Irene McKinney grew up on her family’s farm in Belington, West Virginia. She earned a BA at West Virginia Wesleyan College, an MA at West Virginia University, and a PhD at the University of Utah.
 
McKinney published several collections of poetry, including The Girl with the Stone in Her Lap (1976); Six O’Clock Mine Report (1989), which was chosen for the Pitt Poetry Series; and Vivid . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Nature, The Body, Religion, Faith & Doubt

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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