by William Howell

Dawn. New moon. Red lemniscate clouds
turn to liquid cadmium, brilliant in the East over snow-crowns.
A vast quiescence.
Cut wood stacked, waiting, people gather early, a juniper bough in every hand,
to process led by the low metronome of a gong, Rainbow guiding the spiral path inward,
till three hundred have entered under the arch.
Three waves of a conch, giving breath
to Sangres and sky, invite awakeness,
sand hosts ten thousand footprints,
while censer smoke is being fanned,
while Naomi calls in the six directions…Ah Ho!
The mother comes forward, bending deep into juniper,
her young man of 23 laden with boughs.
Greenery covers him
and a handful of wildflowers, purple and yellow.
A father’s kiss follows, to seal this morning.
Next to the altar with photo, workgloves, a toddler’s baseball suit.
a didgeridoo intones original sound.
Layers of clouds, smooth as icing, watch with custodial eyes
as young people lift their circle of prayers to the pyre.
Now wood covers him, and four light the pyre,
the smoke, gray as clouds, can’t wait
to rise clockwise to the West…unknotting, twisting, spinning
in the way of all things. It ascends, expanding
toward pink clouds wispy in the West.
Fire takes over. The wall of wood yields, gives up,
opens to silence around the flames. Solemnity.
A hand wipes away tears. A hand covers a heart.
The fire is our gold, wood the frankincense, juniper the myrrh.
A father’s thanks leave no doubt about the love, no
judgment, no room for tragedy, his son held in all the hearts,
this son who wanted to build greenhouses, to farm
just half a mile from where he is rising, “now in a better place.”
Two brothers forgive the driver by name, say the word ‘love’;
it’s all that remains. No accidents here.
Bagpipes play “Amazing Grace.”
Poetry, scripture, letters, a basket of flowers…till the moon
fades, favoring the original light edging beyond clouds to quickly reign.
His mother chants lovely words soft as fire, a cousin remembers a burly heart,
a great grandmother marvels at how much he ate, a boss praises a fine worker,
a son is promised living memory by a kinswoman of prayer.
Community. The pyre site for the first time was brimming.
Community. “You all kept us from falling.”