Dust and Ashes

We’re told a plot can take two, at most three members;
that we can buy into a family plan that accommodates
up to a certain number of cremains to be interred

under a common monument. According to the Vatican,
ashes may be buried only in cemeteries, mausoleums,
columbariums— Not scattered in the air, not thrown

into a mountain pool or from a bridge into a pond
with lotus flowers and koi. Not fired as artful
swirls of color into a glass paperweight,

nor snorted into your own body as one would
a hit of cocaine. Unless you become a saint,
it’s into an urn then in the earth

that you go: all parts together, all last
remaining ground-down bits the undertaker sifts
into a basket after the furnace cools, kept

in one place— so when the golden
trumpet sounds, the body re-conjured
for the afterlife might not find

with dismay a missing hand or leg,
a misplaced ear or socket. But I admit
I’m curious about green alternatives,

among them the chance to deposit my ashes
in a pod with a tree seed of my choice,
to plant thereafter in a sunny

meadow or a shady hillside— Perhaps
a spoonful of me that might travel thus
back to the city of my childhood,

though the rest of me can go in the crypt
reserved by the family I’ve married into.
The River-Merchant’s Wife says in her letter:

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours.

Inside the chamber, the years’ long echo

will be that long Forever and forever and forever.
Not being saints, unlike Anthony of Padua, our jaws
and tongues won’t glisten or travel the world

in ornate reliquaries. Think of exiles
like Chopin, whose sister smuggled his heart,
after death, back into Poland, in a wax-

sealed jar of cognac. Think of how eternity seems
such a large and alien place— and wouldn’t you much
rather be in all the places you’ve ever loved?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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