Certain ancient cultures in Southeast Asia placed their
dead in coffins hung from the sides of cliffs. The
inhabitants of those that fell the earliest were
All eventually plummet,
slip past the poles,
shed their exoskeletons of rotten wood,
cast the white rattling bones
like dice against the rocks.
And what awaits them
at the bottom?
For a while, I thought it might be
Iced-over fields giving way to spring.
The first poppies raising
their necks above the snow.
Somehow, it made sense that a final
act of surrender,
this final prostration of the body
would lend you
a kind of heaven.
After her father’s funeral, my mother
didn’t balance at the edge of tragedy,
didn’t collapse. She folded a pair of pants
and placed it inside her suitcase,
cooked dinner with her sister.
Only much later,
in the solitude of her own house,
did she allow her body to swing
in the current of her grief,
let that grief steep in the rooms
until it became precious
as the remains of silk. But not then.
After she buried her father,
my mother ironed clothes,
packed luggage. She searched
for the plane ticket in the pockets
of our belongings, our shirts and dresses
flashes of color
against the inside of a box.