Thursday, October 7, 2010

Whatever’s here is just here.

Burial Rites
by Philip Levine

Everyone comes back here to die
as I will soon. The place feels right
since it’s half dead to begin with.
Even on a rare morning of rain,
like this morning, with the low sky
hoarding its riches except for
a few mock tears, the hard ground
accepts nothing. Six years ago
I buried my mother’s ashes
beside a young lilac that’s now
taller than I, and stuck the stub
of a rosebush into her dirt,
where like everything else not
human it thrives. The small blossoms
never unfurl; whatever they know
they keep to themselves until
a morning rain or a night wind
pares the petals down to nothing.
Even the neighbor cat who shits
daily on the paths and then hides
deep in the jungle of the weeds
refuses to purr. Whatever’s here
is just here, and nowhere else,
so it’s right to end up beside
the woman who bore me, to shovel
into the dirt whatever’s left
and leave only a name for some-
one who wants it. Think of it,
my name, no longer a portion
of me, no longer inflated
or bruised, no longer stewing
in a rich compost of memory
or the simpler one of bone shards,
dirt, kitty litter, wood ashes,
the roots of the eucalyptus
I planted in ’73,
a tiny me taking nothing,
giving nothing, and free at last.

4 comments:

ArtSparker said...

Makes me think of the skeleton that bears us up and imprisons us inside a bony cell.

Poet in Residence said...

I am reminded by this post and the previous one of my dear deceased father. Mother kept his ashes in a jar in the bedroom cupboard for nearly 12 months. She said it was so she could talk to him and now he couldn't "answer back". Finally she went with one of my sisters and they scattered his ashes around the base of an ancient oak tree in a landscaped deer park. Other people may like to have gold lettered marble slabs or mighty monuments but I think an ancient oak tree is as good as anything. It serves just as well or possibly better.

Maggie said...

I'm sorry. I've been wallowing in my own meager misery and I missed your last post.

The picture is wonderful. They do look happy, and ever so young.

I love the last line of this poem. I have often thought of death as prison, a place that takes you where you have to stay. But this poem makes it sound almost comforting, or even some release into new adventure. A nice thought.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Clowncar said...

Art, I think of a skeleton as a coatrack, from where we hang our bodies and our minds.

PiR, I love the idea of lying to rest near an ancient oak. My mom's ashes will reside on a hill strewn with wildflowers, in a tiny rural cematary. And one day my ashes will join hers there.

It is a nice last line, Maggie. And a lovely picture. Thank you for your kind thoughts and words.