How did it happen?
Ten hours and ten minutes more
but the day has ended, and I see you:
shoes still on your feet, and your clothes,
all the colours out of place against the mortuary walls.
I remember: The way you’d hold my hand
in both of yours, the way you’d ask, smiling,
The night is eloquent
but I have hemmed myself in.
No words to give
so I fold paper and
feed it to the fire,
watching flames lick
through the petals,
each incense structure
curling and crumbling,
I remember: Sunday afternoons at your store,
you teaching me how to count out change
and letting me sit in your storekeeper’s armchair
When they sing
it’s part of the ritual.
I don’t understand the dialect,
your dialect, but I close my eyes
as the voices lift, soar, dip,
in a language of grief
that requires no translation.
I remember: Dinner with you,
your cooking fragrant as you urged us on,
eat, eat, eat generously, eat more.
It’s a beautiful morning today
and we’re sending you off.
In my head I try to talk to you,
think of the things I would have
liked to say to you, imagine
how you would have answered.
I remember: Once asking your age
and not having enough fingers and toes
for your sixty six years.
We watch from behind a glass panel
as you make your last journey alone,
slowly, in a box on a track, into the crematorium.
When we emerge the sky is the brightest it’s been in days
I remember your smile, the creases around your eyes,
the way your hands were always cool and dry.
Nobody says a thing on the way back
But when we smile with the tears still in our eyes
I hope you know we’re thinking of you.
??, ???????, ???. **
* Ni hao ma? – How are you?
** Wai po, ni hao ma? / Wo hen hao, wo hen hao. -Grandma, how are you? / I’m fine, I’m doing fine.