Urn Burial

By William Doreski

Two clay urns placed in a field
a hundred years ago collect
ashes blowing around the world.
Male and female from a time
when sex and gender were one.
They’re almost full. This summer

I’ll replace the two with several,
allowing the ether to sift
non-binary and others into
urns of their own. Our ancestors
would understand why secrets
have unfolded, exposing tattoos

we used to hide under our clothes.
Not that I’ve illustrated
my personal skin, but others
have adorned themselves so freely
I can’t help sharing their taste.
When I bury the urns, I’ll ask

priest, minister, rabbi, imam 
and pujari to officiate.
I’ll have the field consecrated
in at least two hundred languages.
Assembling so many liturgies
will fill the last, best years of my life.

I’ve already bought half a dozen
new urns, and found a new pasture
on an eastern slope to place them.
I hope this atones for my plain
agnostic life among strangers,
my awkward smiles and silence.

Indifferent to my diffidence,
the ash in the urns has toughened
into powerful black concrete,
competing immortalities 
gathered into a single substance
tough enough to speak for itself.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

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