"The cemetery is a stage set for a written script. We are all actors just passing through."

Poet Tomeo creates an emotive panorama as he walks within and contemplates a place where lives and deaths are recalled and commemorated: a graveyard. In this case, it is the Mount Saint Mary Cemetery in Flushing, New York. Of particular significance to him are the soldiers who gave their lives in service to their country. It is to them that Tomeo dedicates this work, naming them as they are listed on a stone memorial in Corona, Queens, New York.

The author’s cemetery walks began after the passing of his mother, becoming an everyday ritual and inspiring his poetic gifts, such as this imagery of his mother’s last days from “Mama’s Slippers”: “Her time is wrapped, hung down, bent over, exhausted. / Seems to hug, clasp, embrace the back of her favorite chair.” As Tomeo explores and records his personal visions, he observes others making pilgrimages in their own ways. At one gravesite, a man in black kneels almost to the ground, while at another, a woman with a watering can seems prepared to plant flowers. The sound of bagpipes is especially entrancing. The musician, Tomeo learns, sought to honor those who served America in war, fighting fires, and combatting crime. To the piper, Tomeo contributes this poignant portrait in “Music Ambles Drunk with Sorrow”: “Now he is trembling in grief, / As glorious music reached a dominant piercing pitch. / A Hallelujah moment!”

Early in his cemetery roving, the author meets a Catholic priest, Father Zanon, a Korean War veteran who prays for all he had served with, both Korean and American. Learning that Tomeo is a poet, Zanon invites him to read some of his works at a small chapel, where three poems—“My Father’s Hands,” “Pieta,” and “Crucified “—are warmly received. Tomeo’s volume chronicles his first encounter with Father Zanon on a rainy day in the graveyard, depicts the author’s concern for the priest as he aged, and offers deeply moving words honoring him at his passing in the poem “Father Zanon”: “I know the raindrops were from God / to let us know no one is forgotten.”

Tomeo is a distinguished, widely published, and awarded poet. Here, he skillfully melds a poetry collection and a prose memoir, expressing his respect for and spiritual visions of those who have passed recently, as in the Vietnam War, while also harking back to losses from earlier centuries. Strolling through the cemetery yields a unique perspective, as Tomeo sensitively describes it. It is depicted as surprisingly pleasant, a place of natural beauty tucked away from the noise of the surrounding city. He would gradually come to understand it as “a work in progress” since, in that ambiance, such a wide variety of human histories unfold. He blends these thought-invoking meditations with the pragmatic ways such remembrance walks can affect one’s personal sphere. It influences him and his wife gradually to plan for their own demise. They even buy a cemetery plot and design their tombstone, which invites passersby to “…Take a Seat. Stay a While.” Tomeo’s creative construction will touch his readers, enheartening them throughout by proffering vivid vignettes of life nobly lived and the timeless, etheric symbolism that pervades its ending.

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