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Little Crosses

I devised part of this back in 2017 when someone proposed that the legislature ought to ban coroners from painting crosses on highways where fatalities occurred. The ban idea did not gain traction. The practice was started by former Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend who was the first female coroner elected in South Carolina. Funny how a subject sticks with you . . .

Little Crosses

Used to in the South
you might catch a coroner
with a can of spray paint
claiming the road where a death had occurred.

She'd throw down a cutout of a cross,
like a bigger version of the letter cutouts
you get down at the hardware store
when you need to paint your house number
on your brand-new Post-Master-Approved hope-ready mailbox
after your old one was run down
by a car full of high-school exuberance,
drunken on the rites of Spring.

She'd shake the paint can until
the little ball-bearing inside
stopped rattling around
then suddenly release a white spray
across the cutout etching
not an X-marks-the-spot cross
but a Jesus cross which accounts
for why the Jesus-haters tried to make her stop,
leaving only us to decide what kind of little crosses
are stenciled across the memory of our lives.

                                                    - Tommy Stringer, 2022