La Réunion cemetery is still around, but it is easy to overlook. It is set far back from a main street in what was once unincorporated West Dallas, partly obscured by a chain-link fence. The things that have been built around it seem banal at first, but when you force yourself to consider each thing, they seem to have an ugliness (the lake-thing, for instance) that is even quite mysterious, and worth some thought. Some parts of Dallas are like that; maybe many parts.

The cemetery is a completely gated community of the dead (although there was a lively black Chihuahua mix in the middle of it when I got there, barking, and never stopping), neighbored by big, plain, new white apartment buildings on two sides, and by a weird little lake in front. The lake is hard to figure out, because it isn’t used for sewage: it seems to be meant to be decorative, but there are no ducks in it or trees around it, and it looks about as forlorn as a lake ever looked, a neatly-kept hole in the ground with water in it, unrippled. A pair of lovers was walking by it, and they stopped to kiss by the cemetery. Since, overall, the entire area looked like a slum reclamation project in which everything but the cemetery had been bulldozed and a hole of water added as a flourish, I could only figure that they showed a certain delicate intuition in kissing by the one beautiful thing in sight, other than each other.


La Réunion Cemetery

Walter J King 1 Edit

You couldn’t tell that La Réunion Cemetery was beautiful until you were inside it, looking out. It was chained shut. I climbed over the fence door, where an extra metal bar allowed more footholds and there were no sharp link ends on top. My daughter was small enough to take the dog’s route, pushing herself on her back through a hole under the chain link, and keeping up an anxious patter about fire ants–not unreasonably—and about whether the Chihuahua was rabid. It had left the cemetery and was barking at her from a safe distance: that dog, approaching and retreating in a dance without dignity, and my daughter scooting backwards into the cemetery, also without dignity, deeply interested two boys who were hanging over the back of their fence. They watched for a long time, very quietly. Perhaps they hoped the dog would bite her. It would be something interesting.


When Ingrid got in she went leaping around in the grass, which was enticingly green and tufty. She apologized once for leaping on a grave, but it was probably under a tuft of grass. The cemetery looked made for such spring lambs. It would never be so pretty at any other time of year. There were big clumps of white flags, always the first irises to bloom and the ones that fade the quickest. No matter if the soil gets as hard as bones by July, and if acres burn down, and the drought proves prayer proof, the white irises come back every spring in old cemeteries all over Texas. It was mid-March now, and the flowers, always sort of wet and fragile at their best, were in every stage from birth to death, from new blooming, to mushy and curling back, to dried brown and gone.

Sunset Iris Edit

There was a single wine cup wildflower, claret-colored and exquisite. And when the sun started down over the apartments, leaving a pale, streaky sunset sky, the mesquite and the oak tree became dark against it, with their limbs struck up bouncing by the breeze that suddenly came up. You could picture, if you tried, a vast landscape as perfectly made as the little time capsule of undeveloped Nineteenth Century in which you stood.

Irises 2