What Remains

In Ireland, death is highly ritualised. Wherever a person dies, almost invariably ‘the remains’ are brought home. There is the wake with neighbours, friends, and extended family visiting the deceased, who is usually laid out in the best room, all coming to say goodbye, praying the rosary, drinking tea, eating sandwiches. Then the house may go private to family only before ‘the removal.’ The remains are removed from home to the church the night before the funeral and a service is held to welcome the coffin.  There are forms of words and people who may  not have visited the funeral house line up to sympathise with the family, shake hands, say “I am sorry for your loss.” Then the funeral, the commital for burial or cremation. Over three days, the bereaved waver on that liminal place of letting go. Each sympathiser dins the reality home. You have lost a loved one.  That is a sorry thing.

This poem circles around that certain funereal terminology – the remains.

Remains

1.

The remains.

Not corpse.

Not carcasse.

Not cadaver.

The sinew

the beloved bones

the convex and concave planes

of beloved face.

 

2.

A wood coffin.

A casket full of a once bejewelled life.

A willow woven basket

its warp and weft a living thing.

The stone sarcophagus.

A memorial cold as

the cold, cold ground.

Catacombs.

A city  of the dead

skulls and crossed bones huddled together.

Balm for those extrovert spirits.

Purgatory for solitary souls.

The Crem.

Burning what remains to ash.

Remembering how we began as dust

and to dust we shall return.

 

3.

When the dust settles.

When the motes no longer dance.

Those atoms waltzing in a certain slant of light.

What remains of settled dust?

The light. The light.

That remains.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

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13 thoughts on “What Remains

  1. The funerals in Ireland are similar to the ones in Romanian villages. Three days to let go of the body, to help the soul begin its journey. It’s not all mourning, as often people laugh and cry at the same time, remembering the deceased. Unfortunately, if one happens to die in a city, the letting go is a more efficient process.

    The poem is beautiful–with just the right amount of hurt. I love that it begins and ends with the same word, a full circle. These lines grab me by the throat:

    “What remains of settled dust?
    The light. The light.
    That remains.”

    Liked by 1 person

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