She wrapped the plate(circa 1930, daffodils on square ivory china)
in newsprint; a face, an old face (circa 1935, female in black and white)
stared from the paper and disappeared as the clerk swathed the dish
like newborn babe.
I stood bemused at the juxtaposition:
new life for the plat, perhaps, its usefulness extended, wrapped
in the notice of a life expended, chronicled in recycled print
and carried home to be cremated in the fire that warms my home.
Death is, you know. It just is.
It comes when it will. We leave, unknowing
if we might be remembered in transitory print,
mourned for three days and then back to work because the personnel policy
only allows three days for deaths. And then someone,
someone like me, buys a plate in a secondhand store
and my obituary is wrapped
around chipped china while the stranger
stares at my face, reads my name, wonders who I was
and then sends my memory up in smoke
to mingle in the miasma of other fires, other souls
winding their confused way in the hereafter
up and up, thinner and thinner as the smoke ascends
past planets and stars to where heaven might be, if one believes,
or to the place where souls are recycled and come back again,
a cat in tiger body, a dog as prowling bear.
I smooth the paper and for the wrinkled face I wish
the soaring freedom of a singing bird.
The paper catches, burns and wisps away
leaving ashes of the past.