Ashes to Ashes

Shepherd me, O God, he sings, white ponytail
slung back low on his head. Beyond my wants,
beyond my fears. From death into life.

Echoes fade out near the ceiling high above,
where silence alone is observing us.

The choir rises and falls, swells in unison
with bright button-up shirts so unlike ours.
We stand, we sit, yet we should kneel.
I do not remember if music played
when the Father began to cast incense about.

There was milky smoke billowing forth, like water
rushing swiftly to cover the polished wood.
Tracing a cross over and over and over.
I felt the saltwater fall fresh from my cheeks.

Ashes to ashes, dirt to dirt. Dust swept away
from the grave. Yellow roses and a wreath.
Maybe we squirmed in the padded seats meant to be comforting,
thinking of worms and soil and carbon degrading.

Maybe we thought of sharks’ teeth on the beach in summer.
Maybe we thought of both. Time is up. The crew stands by,
in coveralls, waiting for our parade to depart so they may
complete their work and get paid. Just another day,
digging ditches because no one knows what else to do.

And so we scramble into the cars that form a line.
Shaking off the dirt from our clothes because
we don’t want to be claimed just yet.
We leave, but we take this with us.


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