Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'll Be the Purple Lilies

The first poem I read at Larry's this winter, and one I'd been thinking of writing for months before I did it. I'll actually post the whole poem from which I took the epigraph too. The translation of the epigraph is "Up the grey staircase of the living roots/ I will rise to watch you in the purple lilies." (or "I'll be the purple lilies")

Por la parda escalera de las raíces vivas
Yo subiré a mirarte en los lirios morados!
- Juana de Ibarbourou, “Vida-garfio” 1919

I’ll Be the Purple Lilies

If I die, love, I want to be cremated.
Burn me up, let my body dissolve
Into the flames. It won’t hurt,
I don’t think.

If I die, my love, dress me yourself
In the long blue dress you bought me.
Braid my hair, brush my lips
With the pink gloss that tastes
Like candy canes. Kiss me goodbye.
You love the way it tastes on me.

If I die, my only love, please
Let them see me – my friends and family –
Let them say goodbye, but don’t
Don’t let them bury me.

It is you, my love,
I will trust with my death
As I trust in my life.
You who understand heat and fire and connection.
I want the flames to obliterate my past,
To make ash of the form I can no longer inhabit.
Scatter my ashes, love, wherever you want.
Where you’d like your own to join them.

Don’t let them bury me, love.
Don’t let them pray over my body and lie
And say that I’m with God, that I’ll be raised
Again to heaven forever.
If they put my body in the ground,
Swaddled in satin, secured in polished wood
And metal handles, if the earth hits the coffin
Above my face, I will rot. The coffin will not
Hold off decay forever.

I don’t want to rot, my love, alone
And isolated, with the velvet falling over my eyes
The damp seeping through the joints of the wood.
I would rather burn once, right away,
Rather feel the fire, even if it hurts, than endure
The slow dissolution in a closed room.

If I die, my dearest love, let me go
Into the furnace like your ancestors went
So unwillingly. I will go like a lamb, docile and ready,
Welcoming the fire’s disintegration. I will be ash
Poured into your hands. You can streak me on your forehead,
Keep some bits in a jar on your mantle – that orange glass jar
With the elephants would do nicely – but I want the bulk
To be scattered.

Let me join with the wind, travel slowly
Caressing the trees, finding the earth again.
I will dissolve into the water, the streams carry me
To the ocean, then soil carry me down
And then up through the roots. I will smell spring again,
I will be part of the world you love.

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