Fire Mummies

~ Kabayan, Benguet

We hold on as long as we can
    until the mountain trail swims 
         like a river of mist before our eyes, 
              and we know it's time.

Before we close our eyes and leave
    the village forever, the shaman brings a drink  
         in a shell dipper to seal and drain   
               the body from inside. 

Nothing of beeswax or honey must touch
    our skin, but salt and stringent herb--- 
         We want to be as parchment that light 
               can read through and through, high 

among limestone rocks. When the last  
    breath exhales, we step outside and watch them   
         seat our corpses at our homestead's threshold, 
             over a low smoldering fire.

A gong's bronze notes weave
    a month-long tent as slowly,
         we dry and lengthen, limbs folded
             and tucked in. Suspended 

like this between sky and earth, we sit 
    like sculptures nested in sweet 
         pine boxes, waiting for the flower 
             that blooms only one night a year.  



 

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