Arts+Culture

Arts+Culture

We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner

Poetry

Now! Order your prepaid cremation!

I’ve seen the Kathmandu corpses,
garlanded with marigolds, burned
to a crisp, holy smoke sifting
across the river, censing the air for the tourists.
In Annapurna’s narrow lap this valley,
chock full of bones, is too cramped
for burials. Instead, the dead are loaded onto
burn piles stacked with logs from the foothills,
now naked and eroding, pillaged for ceremony,
death gathering to itself more death
up the slow gradient of necessity.
Mourners chant. Mortality teaches
our ears, eyes, noses as the little boats of
skeletal ash and charcoal are launched,
freed from the funeral ghats,
to drift downstream.

Urged now to weigh the manner of
my final dispersal, I’m not
averse to incineration. But I confess
this foolish comfort: to lie beside my husband
in our grave—a double bed we chose together—
the full, aged remnant of the body he loved,
knowing heaven can pull together
from earth or urn, from bones or ashes,
whatever is needed for what’s next.

Poetry

Dandelions

The bag I drag is solid as earth, clods
I couldn’t shake off roots
reeking of rocks and blackness,
the kind of dirt they’ll use to bury us.
                                                                 As in Iraq,
where the body count climbed so fast
mortuaries posted Help Wanted beside the highway.

And let me mention my own complicity with darkness,
buying a jade jacket sewn by a hungry child
in Singapore. And the way
I say darkness, a skin tone
not my own.
                         Even the calibrations of a poem,
tricky, the justice of lines, evil wrestling
with good in the miniature
Madison Square Garden of a page.

As I weed, I listen to the sweet cacophony
of neighbor kids on scooters, the argument of work,
its ache in my arms.

                                      When the lawn bag rips,
dandelions tumble out, eager to spread their seed.
You know how gullible evil is, sure
of itself, always believing the worst.
Are dandelions weeds or flowers?
Maybe I’ll tear the bag, send seeds flying,
encourage a suspicious universe to bloom.





Poetry

Strewn

It’d been a long winter, rags of snow hanging on; then, at the end
of April, an icy nor’easter, powerful as a hurricane. But now I’ve landed
on the coast of Maine, visiting a friend who lives two blocks from the
      ocean,
and I can’t believe my luck, out this mild morning, race-walking along the
      strand.
Every dog within fifty miles is off-leash, running for the sheer dopey joy
      of it.
No one’s in the water, but walkers and shellers leave their tracks on the
      hardpack.
The flat sand shines as if varnished in a painting. Underfoot, strewn, are
      broken
bits and pieces, deep indigo mussels, whorls of whelk, chips of purple
and white wampum, hinges of quahog, fragments of flat gray sand
      dollars.
Nothing whole, everything broken, washed up here, stranded.
Light pours down, a rinse of lemon on a cold plate
of oysters. All of us, broken, some way or other. All of us
dazzling in the brilliant slanting light.
Poetry

Lament

In the sixth week in the beautiful city it all threatened
to go awry, too many days of cloud and drizzle, too much time

to sit idly with neither reliably bad American cable
nor the usual cohort of neighbors and associates,

overfamiliar or not. How many times could we study
the cloud-shrouded mountains, the muddy stretch waiting

to dry and go under the asphalt? How many churches
could we wander into, ponder briefly for their artwork

and architectural features (Roman, baroque, gothic,
even all three in one multilayered building,

assembled over a whole millennium), the silent arches,
the bare bulbs dangling from 40-foot cords, the iron gates

and wistful announcements of occasional services?
How many evenings, even, the skies suddenly clear

and the Untersberg bare and muted in the southeast,
the western slopes open and shadowed at the same time,

the sun descending unstoppably to the courts of some lost empire?