Too Steep to Climb
In the air the still distant and uproarious smoke
scaling the dark rungs of trees to unwind
into twists of small shadow eaten by the clouds.
The crematorium is just one thin spoke
of ritual holding us at bay, and what a kind
dictator to present death only as a shroud.
Forgive me, father, for I have missed
your skin, your eyes, I have been blind
to your absence. Sometimes as I’ve drowsed
an insistent voice (I’ve called it yours) has kissed
my ears ungently and scoured me from sleep
hungry for more. We were left a crowd
of ashes and bone. I’ve tried to make a list
of what was lost. I want to say however much I keep.
Take this one answer: life is the dawn and our souls,
if that is who we are, are burned from the earth like mist.
Be comforted. There is no grave so deep
it does not fold again into a mountain.
“Too Steep to Climb” appeared in Best New Poets 2005.