A Serbian Cemetery in Country Victoria

It was surprising, the grand brick church sat at the end of the remote boulevard
A little slice of the Balkans, beyond Melbourne’s south western suburbs

There seemed to be no one around, except the puffing groundswoman who was moving flowers from patch to pot
Inside, wrapped in silence, we crossed our hearts while she took us back in time
Old habits evident and superstitions including walking backwards out of the door

In a messy little nook around the corner we burned votive candles
There had been a fire in the church so now they kept them away from the pulpit
I lit two, for my parents, but I didn’t ask about the other one burning

Back out the gate we followed the dog-leg road to the community cemetery
A pair of smiling ladies were cleaning graves, washing marble with holy water
They come every Saturday, praising young love where they see it

On the headstones (many garish) are head shots – all model relatives
Near the entrance was a fresh mound of earth
Another baba interred, waiting with infinite patience for the full regalia

More rows had appeared from the last visit so it took a minute to find our place
When we did, we poured our own libations
Setting in vases the small orange roses that we bought at the beach

I left the two of them alone, walking to the tree-line
In the fading light, the magpies were in dogfight flight
Swooping from their eeries

White-tailed rabbits were holding inter-paddock summits
Keeping up their end of the pact to re-populate the planet
While all around them, rock-like sheep chewed grass

Over the opposite green field, where the sacred stones sat, came the sound of folk music
So the men were there after all, circling an old radio, playing backgammon and smoking cigarettes
I couldn’t tell you what brand they were (maybe Dunhill) — the war-torn butt I saw in the rusty urinals was sodden and faded

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