Thursday, November 01, 2007
“Here lies his head upon the lap of earth,
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown,
For Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy marked him for her own.”
- Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
It all started with memory, how our talks
gave way to silence. You are making sense
of letters etched on cold and lonely stone
and of the good earth beneath it, spinning,
unspoken pleas mouthing resurrection
and regret. The afterlife, you mumbled,
when we move on to the next. It is strange
how we fear dark, frail moment of blackness,
sudden light emerging at the height of redemption.
Do you still remember it? The last time
he spoke, the breeze betraying your murmurs,
you had pushed back an answer, attempting
no goodbyes. He replied, flesh and bones –
nothing thereafter. Those words and white noise.
What you really meant, however, was not
"ashes to ashes", or "dust to dust", or
it would have been too easy. Slab of stone,
bunch of flowers, this piece of hallowed ground.
Over the grave we watched over, kept free
from weeds or tidied, even nature knows
its places. The sparrows have alighted
on the branch of some tree, perhaps seeking
deliverance, their wings flapping in time
to the rhythm of prayer. And the candles
are burning, bearing fiery witness, red sparks
and wisps of smoke, melted wax approaching
ruin. They have ways of telling stories,
little wind-secrets to your ear. So listen well:
hear them calling. And pardon the voices
if they whisper loud enough to the grass
at your feet. Maybe the sparrows will hear.
Look, they are now ready to take flight,
half-rising into the sky, perhaps already knowing
how it ended.