Holly Jane Ewens

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Explaining Cremation to a Six-year-old

   For Jamali Amstad


I am driving to the airport. A friend’s
young son has flown in; a fledgling


on his own – he is buoyant when we greet
each other, stretched out in a hug. We take


the coastal route round the bays. He died
your boyfriend, eh? The boats in the harbour list


against each other, their masts white
exclamation marks. The sky


is darkening. I saw the photo
you sent. My Mum showed me. The one


with your boyfriend in the bathtub.
The northerly has picked up. I predict


rain. It had paint all over. It’s sad
he died, your boyfriend, eh?


He was dead in the bathtub.
Casket! He means casket.


Now we are on the straight road. Wide lanes
lead to the rise. We are up and over


and down to the sea, a sigh – Kapiti.
My key sticks in the lock, I must


remember to oil it – he bounds
straight in, so where is he then,


your boyfriend? He died months ago!
I peel off an analogy of fruit –


about what happens when it falls
from the tree. We burnt him. A small hand


twists the tricky brass knob. The green lounge
opens to late orange light. A fire crackles


in the grate. D’ya burn him in there?
He points to the glowing thing


beneath the mantle. Nah, cos you’d like,
have to roll him up to fit him in there, eh?


Even the flames poke out their tongues –
spit across the stone hearth. I pull


down the ashes from above the piano;
one of three silver trinket boxes.


I bought these so the kids could keep something
and keep it safe. But still, teaspoons here and there


have been knocked out, lost up the hose
of the vacuum cleaner; their father’s remains.


I creak open the hinge – this is all
that’s left of him now, look. He takes a pinch


of the coarse flakes between thumb and finger;
cribs them in his palm. Doesn’t look like him, he says.

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