Uses For Wood

Ba, burning: wood was scarce,
so we bought a few logs for the top of the pyre.
The rest was cow dung mixed with straw.
We held the torch together, like cutting
a wedding cake. The scent rose up,
of burning wood, dung, ghee;
and after awhile, the smell of meat.

We waited nearby,
passing the time with tears
and gossip. Friends walked up to her
to see how things were going: "It won't take long,
nothing left but the torso."

I breathed her ashes, carried her in my lungs --
closer than in life --
exhaled her back into her house.
I stood by the window, drinking cool water. Outside

crows dropped twigs, clumsy with sticks too long for them.
They flew to high branches in stages, zig-zagging
from one platform to the next, making the untidy heaps
that protect their eggs from the strongest wind.

(This is one of a series of poems I wrote after my mother-in-law died. I'd posted one here earlier: Journeying)

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