i’m interested in death rituals.
maybe that’s a weird thing to say.
when i say interested i mean,
i’ve compiled a list.
on it are mourning practices
gathered across time & continents
it’s long & oddly comforting
how no one knows a damn thing
about what follows. i wont
share it with you, only say,
evidence suggests neanderthals
were the first hominids to bury
their dead. also, i’ll say they
didn’t possess a written language,
which points toward internment
as a form of document. the body
is ink in the earth. the grave marker,
a gathering together of text.
the first written languages were
pictorial & marked the movement
of goods between peoples.
i don’t know what to do with that
but pretend death’s a similar kind
of commerce: face stamped
into a coin, what’s left of the body
in the belly of a bird, two lines
that meet to make a man
alive again on paper. i know i know,
ashes to ashes & all that dust
to irreverent dust. i know everyone
i love who’s dead didn’t actually
become the poem i wrote about them.
their breath a caught fathered
object thrashing in the white space
between letters. contrary to popular
belief elephants don’t actually bury
their dead lacking the necessary
shovels & opposable thumbs rather
they are known to throw leaves
& dirt upon the deceased & this
is a kind of language. often the tusks
from dead elephants are scrivened
into the shapes of smaller elephants
& sold to travelers who might display
this tragic simulacrum upon
their mantel as a symbol of power
& of passage. when i’m gone, make me again
from my hair. carry me with you
a small book in your pocket.
Copyright © 2017 by sam sax. “Bury” originally appeared in Prairie Schooner. Reprinted with permission of the author.