Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Bury

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.

Credit


Copyright © 2017 by sam sax. “Bury” originally appeared in Prairie Schooner. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Author


sam sax

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