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.
sam sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series and forthcoming in 2017 from Penguin Books.
Date Published: 2017-10-23
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/bury