Charles Cowling

Ashes at the funeral home
six hundred still to be collected
small boxes, cardboard, filed in rows
a kind of shell grit for the chickens
fifteen years six hundred still
that somehow somewhere should be scattered:
sown like seed across a paddock
thrown as gravel upon water
or set there upon the mantelpiece
and added to at parties
or dug perhaps in some well-loved
old gardner’s acidic corner
that needs a spot of lime
or tossed aloft like hard confetti
at weddings in the park
where at the end he might have sat
or stowed in brass behind a name
the cemetery as mail exchange
and postbox minus key.
How is it that they cannot face this morning’s meeting long deferred
this grey irrelevance of ashes against what dawn and memory bring
so vertical and three-dimensioned
though growing slowly blurred?
They cannot bear to sign the book
a woman at the counter holds
so long inured to tears.
And some themselves
who would have come
are patient on the shelves.

Geoff Page is an Australian poet. You can read more about him (and more of his poems) here.

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Jonathan
Jonathan
8 years ago

Yeah, GM, the last three lines give new meaning to the expression ‘ashes to ashes’…

… and how many urns will it takes till he knows
that too many remains lay unclaimed?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
or it would if they got their arse down here.

gloria mundi
8 years ago

And just as I was getting a bit impatient with a poem that started so well, such a brilliant ending! Thanks Charles.