Before our time, before years that said no
when anyone passed a church and reverently
bowed, a soul somewhere might go
to heaven, just because of that bow.
And they all felt sad if a rooster crowed,
for something it reminded them of, a story
strong as the cables that hold up the world.
Nobody bows now if a rooster crows.
But maybe something you do, unknowing
or quick to react, without thought of gain
or loss – maybe that act goes on
over mountains or oceans and finds the same
salvation for you that bowing does.
It is larger now, the church is, and the life
we are in. In it we bow to everything.
Today a small funeral for my husband’s aunt, out in the Catskills at a grave site on a small road off a bigger road along a river.
And a pine box.
Bowing to clay.
Bowing to a life, long lived and complicated.
Bowing to the hawks overhead and the patience of teen-agers, leaning in to listen to elders, these elders newly made by this passing.
They, who were once the
rangy teen agers, now, balding, scattered and full of laughter.
When I die, don’t bury me.
Compost me. Mix me in with the potato scraps and mango pits.
Turn me in to the roots of the rose bushes and rhubarb.
Let me live in the sweet air around you forever and a day.
Good bye Aunt Elsie.