Friday, September 18, 2009

filling the locket with bones

candles lit.
the transferring of burnt bones and skin and blood
to a locket.

tonight, we sat together and burned bees wax and sweet grass.
we filled an old, gold locket from 1874 with the smallest amount of k's mama's ashes.

for over seven years, her ashes have been locked in an urn on k's dad's fireplace. Finally, on Sunday he fumbled with a screwdriver and opened the urn. Amidst the scattered mail on the dining room table, he scooped with a worn, aluminum teaspoon the deep gray of his beloved's remains into zip lock bags. Then I cracked open the cheap, black, plastic container that held the recently cremated body of grandma s and k undid the twist tied plastic bag inside and then k's dad scooped the dust of grandma s's daughter into the bag. The two--one dead at 56; the other at 96--blended together.

He trembled. And kept saying that this day has been hanging over him for years.

He was so stirred that he could not screw the bottom of the urn back on, right then.

Then we drove to the graveyard and participated in the memorial for grandma s. I wrote and read the eulogy--to do so was an honor. It was her passing that finally compelled k's dad to open up his beloved's urn because she had wanted some of her ashes mixed with her mother's. For k, the opening and spreading about of her mother's ashes has been something she has wished to do for the last many years, but her father was not ready until now.

Tonight we stopped into our favorite antique store in downtown Ypsilanti. A few weeks back we had asked the owner to keep his eyes open for a locket for k to hold a picture of her mama and a bit of her ashes in. He had found a beautiful piece from 1874. He was so happy to have found it and we were so very thankful.

Upon returning home, k burned a candle and called on her ancestors to be near us. I popped the locket sides open and we picked through the dust of her mother. the bigger pieces of ash--the bony and caskety chunks--we pulled out and made a thin layer of gray particles across one side of the locket. Then k cut out a lovely picture of her mama, and I placed it in the other side.

It is so grounding to sieve through the dustiness of someone who once lived and walked and loved and talked and dreamed and gave birth and laughed here on this planet. It is like waking up while I am already wide awake. The sureness of my own mortality and the mortality of loved ones is held up raw in my face. It is heavy--thicker than cream, lighter than rock, more noisy than radio static. The brushing of ground bones across my pants to clean the tips of my fingers from the task that was at hand is like liquid thunder hovering over the edge of a cliff.

At the same time, it is so very usual and mundane and still so sure and sound.

Tonight the supple skin of k's cheek beneath my lips will matter all the more. Her hot breath around my face and pillow will hold me fixed with desire and true with longing for the now to be forever and the dust to keep its sights fixed somewhere else for longer than forty years. for longer than can really ever be.

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