by Vinita Agrawal
I don’t remember anything about the day we emptied mother's ashes in the river.
Just the overcast grey sky, dowelled like a Serengeti of gloom somewhere up above.
The hospital had trussed her hermetically to prevent chemical bloating,
scaffolded her abdomen in particular...too much tumor there, they'd said blandly.
So, in the end, that's how she had lain on the pyre
and breathed in our hearts.
Her cork-soled slippers had waited patiently in the corner of her room
the way an old woman awaits the return of her son gone to war.
I'd hoarded in my cupboard her lemon sari - the one that she'd worn for the last time,
like a chipmunk stashing acorns for a bleak winter.
Even now it's easy to see her -
the tiny scar on her brow, her satin eyes
one front harp-shaped tooth in a row of perfect others
her chiffon cheeks, those smiling lips,
the chemo ravaged hair and cuticles...
We'd lied to her everyday;
assured her that she'd recover.
What did she tell herself, I wonder.
When the stone cold moon paused at her window by night
and stars glimmered transparently over the darkness like sweat,
what demons did she confront?
Did she remember to pledge herself to us again for the next life?
On the third day, we emptied her ashes into the thick belly of a swiftly flowing river.
Lacing cold, turbulent foam with warm eternal peace...
our cheeks as pale as skeletons,
our grief as dark as the mountains in the far horizons
sprayed against grey skies, brutally pegging a day to the calendar.
A day that had a date, a month, a year and one missing person.
Last updated April 30, 2015