Emily Scudder

She begged for her mother’s ashes.

Just a handful would do.

The box arrived in the mail.

She put it down and kicked it clear across the room.

It was the right thing to do.


When you died I craved the weight of your body

thrown over my shoulder, imagined

hanging down, your softened thighs across my chest.

I used to carry my children in each arm,

their legs clenched, a vice grip around my waist.

If I could carry them I could save them,

I believed, from rabid dogs or rapid flames.

I could have carried you too

but they don’t let you hoist up your dead anymore.

So I left the room.


Aren’t we supposed to wipe your body, whisper magic

into incisions, dance barefoot around tubes and IV bags hanging?


No god follows you from some hospital

loading dock to Quincy or Everett

where workers rise an hour before their shifts,

tape a number on a box

to be held up later, side by side with its match

because no god is that small.


Aren’t we supposed to wail ourselves down hallways,

through automatic doors, past vending machines and restrooms?


Remains of remains is all you get back.

10% at best to bury, to rocket into space or leave

sitting on the shelf because no one knows quite what to do.

90% floats up and out, mixing into everything that is.


Aren’t we wives, mothers, daughters . . . ?


He carried his sister in a bag to the cemetery,

sprinkled her into a pond where the ducks flew down

and ate her up.  “She always liked duck” he said.

It was the right thing to do.