Does It Matter if You Touch the Ashes? I Did Not Touch the Ashes

i took my dead mother for a walk last week at Land’s End, by chance i was just looking for easy access water to dump her in to dissolve her, i guess was the intention i didn’t give it that much thought

photograph of my mother's ashes being washed away by the tide. the colors have been made psychedelic
Ethel on the Beach

i took my dead mother for a walk
last week at Land’s End, by chance
i was just looking for easy access
water
to dump her in
to dissolve her, i guess
was the intention
i didn’t give it that much thought

i never loved her but that was just
tat for no tit
so to speak

most of the coves were too windy
too windy in the wrong direction, i mean
if the wind would have taken her away from me
i would have been glad for it
i would have been glad of it
sure thing, but the wind would have just
thrown her right back at my face
thrown her right back in my face
insult upon insult

i carried her in a brown paper shopping bag
the kind i drew a face on for a contest
when i was too young to be jaded about that
kind of thing

some weeks later my sister got mad at me
on facebook
for learning on facebook
that her mother had died
sorry, i said
i didn’t know that you cared
i didn’t know that she cared
i thought she was playing me

my mother’s name was Ethel but
she called herself Marie
but her name was Marie
so i called her Ethel
i call her Ethel now and then
because Ethel is of a time
Ethel was of a time

she came to me in a brown cardboard box
if they had sent her to my sister then
she would have been mad at me on facebook for
something else

i carried dead Ethel in her cardboard brown box
in a brown shopping paper bag
looking for a cove to throw her away in
to throw her away
to throw her in, but
the wind

i carried her dead in the box all the way
from Point Lobos to China Beach, but
the wind

at one cove without a name
none of the coves have names
i got her as close as the water almost
touching my feet
almost touching my feet wet but
the wind
so i took her back to the trail
i took her back to the car

this was the only time in my life
that i took my dead mother on a walk
this was the only time in her dead life
that she took a walk with me
this was the only time she and i
did anything
like that

before mailing her to me in a box
they used to call me
i could see their caller id name
so i knew they were calling me

every call was a hope dashed
every call was a dashed hope
“your mother is fine” is how
they always started
as if they knew what i wanted to hear
instead
every call was the same until
the last one, finally
“ding dong your mother is dead”

she wasn’t heavy dead in the bag
she wasn’t heavy in life
she was a broken bird
a baby chick that never had the chance
it wasn’t her fault
the waiting was a weight
the weighting was a wait, i said
so i guess she was heavy in another kind of
way

broken by her brothers who
i can't even say it—
it wasn't her fault
what she did to me
did to me what they
did to her
more than less
not her fault
but did it still she did

i put my dead mother back in the car
on the passenger’s seat
in her box card board
in her paper brown shopping bag
and drove
what a fucking waste of time, i thought
why did i go to all that trouble?
but for the wind
of the wind

i drove then i stopped then
i stopped then i drove then
i jumped out of the car
with her in her bag box
walked on the flat beach toward
the wind
walked fast not ran
to where the water almost touched
me

i opened her box in the bag
i took her box out of the bag
i opened the box out of the bag
it was the first time
i looked inside
it looked like dry gray sand
not like the wet brown beach

does it matter if you touch the ashes?
i did not touch the ashes

i held her as far away from me as i could
with my arm
i turned the box over
i turned my dead mother out in the wind
on the sand
in the water that was touching
my feet

i shook the box
the way guys shake their entire body after a pee in the movies
we only do that in the movies
in real life we shake
only the penis
i shook my arm
i shook my entire body

i walked back to the car
before i walked back to the car
i turned back and looked at her
ashes
in the water
i saw my foot prints in the ashes
i saw my foot prints in the sand
she wasn’t gone yet but
was she ever there?

i took a dead bird for a walk
last week at Land’s End, by chance
i took the ashes from a dead bird
in a brown bag shopping paper
in a brown board box card
i poured the ashes on the wet sand
beach
and set myself free

(this was written a couple years ago)

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Jamie Larson
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