It was a summer sun and autumn wind. He felt both awkward and snug in the sweater as the heat bore through and the air blew in tidal breaths about him. He couldn’t help look up as he made his way down the gully using his spade for a walking stick. The sky, a wash of azure, held out a gorgeous cleanness – a tableau vivant of redemption after the fierce rain.

Reminding himself to breathe with the wind softening above, he followed the redolent trail of conifer to a line of trees struck by sun. Right there, by the rock. That’s where he’d dig. The clods eventually gave way because they had to. All those years: longing and defeat marked a hundred thousand steps that had made a life, and he hadn’t lived. The dirt crumbled under the work of sure hands. When he made his way back out to the deepening sunlight and noise, will people know that his heart had stopped, that in death he had prevailed over beguiling hope? No. They will just believe his depthless smile. The hollow was now big enough. Calloused palms smoothed the bottom and bending, like a father over the cradle, he buried his dreams.

157 thoughts on “Burial

  1. Very sad. But if I may offer some humor…my kids have been walking around quoting Shia LeBeouf’s motivational video where he says “Don’t let your dreams be dreams!” Have you seen it? Very dramatic! Well that’s me, the giggle at the funeral, quite literally.

    • You said it, MA. For many of us, in fact, it isn’t even a clear death like his. We stretch it out, the proverbial frog years in the hot bath. I appreciate the good word for literary elements I was playing with.


  2. “When he made his way back out to the deepening sunlight and noise, will people know that his heart had stopped, that in death he had prevailed over beguiling hope?”

    Yes, he buried his dreams, and he felt as though he had died. Would people notice? The answer is “no”.
    It is pretty bad when you feel like this. Is such a life worth living?

    • Well, more of us than we can count do in fact live having had to or having buried our dreams, Aunty. Over that is the loneliness of grief and sometimes the pain multiplied in seeing others enjoy so casually what we had to give up. But we do keep rising in the morning, don’t we? And I know you don’t live by the words of the Bible but some food for thought:

      “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

      I think just as pain can wear many faces, so can hope.

      • redolent trail of conifers – is descriptive, telling but not showing – perhaps – along the winding trail of bent roots, towered over by eastern pine and hemlock, there scent on a wind that whispered a thousand stories of the steps and missteps of his life …
        Also – in the sentence ‘when he made his way out …’ I feel as though ‘will’ should be ‘would’ to keep the reader in perspective. Will makes me feel he is already there, where would gives a better sense that he is still thinking about it.
        Lastly – ‘with calloused palms, and bending like a father over the cradle of his newborn, smoothed this blanket of earth and buried his dreams … Is this any help at all?

      • I’ve reviewed those points and – knowing me – will likely revisit them. I think my job as a writer is to always second-guess myself (esp in the face of such thoughtful commentary).

        1. I just might remove or relax on that phrase with the redolent trail. I will probably run it by some writers I trust. The phrase stands in contrast to his not having lived and the death to come: smell. When he remembered to breathe, he could smell the green and they stood tall. The scent also led him to the right place.

        2.I totally see what you see with the tense. The ” would”, though, would be a different kind of prose. A more literal one. This one’s more allegory with a certain style that is served by the “will”, which anchors. And people don’t use perfect grammar when thinking. (Even I?). What WILL help – and probably relieve the music of the line for you – is if I said “when he HAD made his way back out…” but again, I don’t want to do that. At least right now. I like the element of surprise and how the brain has a three-second lag time to process it. Which leads me to a fascinating question (I fear I am talking to myself at this point, LOL!) which I was building throughout.I would normally NEVER allow for such a lag. I think it’s poor writing and our job as writers is clarity. So the question is…what is clarity?

        3. And that is very interesting that you consider the final appositive to be disposal. The cradle is the phrase I worked longest on bc that is what I saw. It showed me how tenderly he was bent over – and there was the literary contrast of life vs. death (unless the baby was no longer breathing). Goodness, this is the most morose I’ve been on this board. I had my antiadjective virus detector on before posting. I didn’t want to go overboard. But I kept the calloused again for literary contrast with the salient themes of life and feeling. YES, you were so helpful! I continue to go back and edit published posts so I will sit on the much-appreciated feedback, my friend. You’re a dear.


      • D – I spent a little bit of time on Writing.com, and did find that my commentary supported other writers, and that others feedback made me a better writer as well. It is amazing the amount of thought that goes into our words … A line I wrote years ago – Words are such imperfect forms of thoughts within our minds – writing is a matter of personal choice, and I do want to make clear that Burial is a wonderful work of writing, obviously carefully crafted and thought out. Things like commas are always a paradox. One of my favorites is the Biblical passage ‘Verily I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise’ in this case will they be in paradise today? How could they if he spent 3 days in hell? Should it be ‘Verily I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise’ ? I consider language to be ‘spell’ing … As in to cast a spell … Are we not magical beings ? – Peter

      • Peter, I don’t want to be just a good writer – or even a very good one. I want to get it jUst RighT, and have wanted constructive feedback I would consider over the noise of the praise. I can count on one hand the no. of posts that got such criticism in the 2.5 yrs I’ve been out here. Thx again for the colleagual support.

  3. I didn’t really understand what you were saying… XD! It’s possibly ’cause I’m kinda young. But I’m thinking this is about death? 0-0

    • Well yes, this was allegory – although one plainly stated. The character clearly had a cherished dream he had to surrender. Many of us do, though we don’t all have such a defining moment. Slow deaths are as tragic, I think.

    • I appreciate the honest feedback, Kevin. And I stand ready to reconsider diction and form. That was intention – literary surprise – though the path leading to it held plenty of clues. I even thought the title was too much of a giveaway. Thanks so much for the reread!


  4. His dreams weren’t stolen, he had them in his hands. If they died, perhaps it was through neglect? Or perhaps it was because others became more important? Burying them? No one did it for him. His choice. Sad, but it’s what comes next that counts, not what didn’t …

    Thought provoking.

  5. Beautiful post Diana and gut wrenchingly true I believe for everyone. Hope does go right along with it though, right? We must choose it over despair, sometimes every minute.

  6. Aw, that he buried his dreams just tore at my heart!
    I understand. I would have buried some of mine too, but I keep playing the scene from the story of Lazarus, where Mary falls at the teacher’s feet and declares that if he had been there, her brother (dream), would not have died. His response jolts me.
    “Where have you laid him?”

    • I JUST listened to a fabulous sermon by the esteemed Dr. Tim Keller on that text a wk ago. He said it’s remarkable that both sisters ask Jesus the same question – and get two different responses. Martha needed truth “I AM the Resurrection…”. Mary needed heart (He wept). So He responds to us where we are. I’m about to email you a question.

  7. Pingback: My Article Read (11-14-2015) | My Daily Musing

  8. I struggle with understanding poetry (leftover from a dislike in high school), but the emotions were unmistakable: hope (azure sky, redemption) to toil to death. Faith helps to feel hope again despite our circumstances.

  9. “They will just believe his depthless smile.”

    This line stood out in the end and left me thinking for a while. Thank you for writing such good “food for thought” blog post. I had to re-read it to understand clearly mainly because I read it fast in the first attempt. Later, it got the best of me, and I read it for the second time. 🙂

    • We shake the pom poms and RA RA the pursuit of dreams, but the fact is that most of us actually don’t or cannot realize them. Some things just will not be. And so the question is what do we do with that. Got every word. Thank you, dear Chris.

  10. I really “felt” his steps, thoughts and journey. I love the fact that you are open to injections of writing development. Grandfather had a couple of good points, and your responses had me re-reading those sections and looking at the perspective each of you were debating. THIS is what makes a writer write, thoughtfully.


    • That was great of you to have gone back to follow our reasoning, Liz. Aw…could I trouble you with this since u did? Is the last line ok – not too abrupt – with the [“he smoothed the bottom [with calloused palms]”) I removed? And could you share your initial, visceral (I mean unstudied) reaction to the “redolent trail of conifer” (before you got to the feedback)? Did you feel that was overkill or did it sink in naturally? Of course I am open to honest feedback. I want to be the best writer I can be.

      • His calloused hands smoothed…. could be an alternative. I feel you were trying to show the wear that his journey took on his body, which is why I would incorporate it.

        I found the “redolent trail of conifer” was used well. I was taken aback at first by the unusual description to tell you the truth. I like different! (It makes me think. ;))

      • K, as long as it wasn’t “too much” – like I was trying too hard. That’s a big No-No. =) (And you are always welcome to walk in and tell me so.) THANK you for the thoughtful read and feedback, Liz!!


      • Don’t feel obligated to peek again. But I think I like the revised ending. I incorporated your suggestion. The line doesn’t sound abrupt to me anymore and I was able to move the “he” way back to the end where I was hearing it all along so that the last clause sounds complete. Thx again!! =)

  11. A bit depressing ~ but also an alarm that sounds that we need to reveal our dreams to ourselves before it is too late… Love the writing, and it ended quite well with the thought of “They will just believe his depthless smile” ~ often, sadly, that is the goal.

    • I think this is the first real depressing post here. =) “we need to reveal our dreams to ourselves before it is too late” Right on, R. So many of us don’t even realize our stillborn dreams. At least this man had a defining moment. I hope your choice and ability to travel have helped see your dreams through. =) I appreciate your keeping up, R. I’ve been under the weather – look fwd to your latest offering.

      • I’ve seen my dream and it keeps evolving 🙂 don’t know if I will ever catch up to it, but the journey is a good one. Wishing you health ~ nothing worse then getting caught up in one of those small downward spirals…my remedy: water & exercise. Take care D., hope you get some sleep so you can dream ~

  12. Ouch! Well done! Didn’t see it coming. I like the idea of doing a symbolic funeral for unrealistic dreams. I may have to find a very soft piece of ground and try it. I’ve never stopped dreaming; they just got downsized by reality.

  13. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    I like the imagery in this one. Maybe he just doesn’t like sweaters… I don’t like sweaters. That nice line was very well done. (that is to prove I read the whole think HW 😉 ) Give her site a visit. She has a great blog and writes from the heart. -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here, please visit their blog.

    • *chuckle* This is HOW short and you’re patting yourself on the back for having read it through? Thx for the PR. I haven’t had a chance to comment under your post from ystrdy – the LONG one (and I read through the whole crazy list. Now THAT deserves something. OK, I accept payment in reblog.)

    • So very sweet of you, Anna. You bring me good cheer in time of need. Am battling (and that is the word) a very bad cough and have been unable to visit as I’ve wanted. Thank you so much for the kind word and wishes. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.


  14. Some writing calls into focus the details – the types of trees or shapes of clouds. Some writing calls into focus the mood – hope, or hopelessness. Still more rare writing can do all of it, seamlessly, to create such a profound picture that you read over the words too fast and have to slow down.

    This is that rare writing.

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