The Grave Digger of Lesbos

by Christopher T. George
Desert Moon Review
Honorable Mention, April 2016
Judged by Joan Colby


It was never my intent to care for corpses;
I came to Greece to study classical literature.

Nonetheless, I’ve become a soother of the dead:
refugees who arrive here in flimsy boats, too often

fail to land either alive or whole — parts wash ashore;
yet, whole or part doesn’t bother me — I bury them all

according to Sharia law. Do the same for a foot,
wash it tenderly, shroud it in white cotton cloth,

pray facing Mecca: “Allah forgive our living
and our dead”
— shaded by Sappho’s olive trees.


In this poem, the author chooses an atypical narrator to address the plight of the Muslim refugees arriving in Greece, too often”failing to land either alive or whole.” Following the burial precepts of Sharia law, he becomes “a soother of the dead.” The poet presents the grave digger without embellishment; we know only that he came to Greece “to study classical literature”, allowing the reader to participate in the poem “shaded by Sappho’s olive trees.” --Joan Colby

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