Because Lena's not yet three,
she doesn't know the reason for this place.
"I like this little house. And this little house,"
she says as she loops around them
—the play-size "houses" of the dead.
Here in Key West, as in New Orleans,
where the land and sea are nearly level,
some are set just above the surface,
and Lena leans on their "big stone beds."

But since Lena's not yet three,
she doesn't know what any of it means:
She doesn't know where the earth rolls away to
every night while she's asleep—
or who rolls with it—some above it, some below.
And because she doesn't know,
she moves in waves of joy
like the spirit on the surface of the waters
—before it ever thought of light.

She squeezes between two "beds"
that are stretched out side by side—
one's bigger than the other—
and pats them, left then right,
and reunites what slipped apart a hundred years ago:
a mother—and her child of a day.
We learn this from their surnames and the dates
—but Lena doesn't read,
and there's no reason to explain.

We watch her bolt through the gate
where the men of the Maine
sail on in shipshape rows
as she splashes among their stones.
"God Was Good to Me," one epitaph proclaims,
but Lena has no knowledge of God.
Or his goodness. Or the opposite implied
by what's said on every side
in the silent houses of the dead.

When we say it's time to go, she runs ahead again,
drops down before an upright stone,
and moves her finger across its surface.
She runs to another, repeats her motions—
as she reads its lines out loud:
The name. The date. And the other.
—And though she's still too young to read,
she reads them anyhow:
"I love you. I love you. I love you."

—But how could she know?—How could she know
what would trump all the mansions of gold?

– Joan Murray

from Dancing on the Edge