I Would

If I’d had the time or the presence of mind
I would have bought you a coffin
of the finest wood from the
rainforest.
 
I would have bought you a coffin with
painted flowers,
with a lid
and with room for you to lie.
 
But the only thought was of losing you.
 
I would have washed your body
slowly, lovingly—
lingering—
one last time.
 
I would have dressed you
as you deserved,
laid your head on a pillow;
shrouded you in silk.
 
It wasn’t to be.
 
I would have taken you where the trees
hang low,
bowed with flowers…
my last respect.
 
Not to be.
 
Instead I wait,
squat by your side
a rough hewn box is all you’re allowed…
but I stay with you.
 
And when I’m told
take the widow’s role—
touch the flame to your shoulder
and watch you burn.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 
More about this poem
 
I saw a coffin shop along the northern end of Sisowath in Phnom Penh that had the most beautiful wood coffins painted with flowers. Maybe this poem should be called ‘I Wish…’ It is all the things I would like to have done had things been different. The last stanza refers to the fact that a family member sets fire to the body as it is slid into the cremation oven at the pagoda.
 
© Ammie-oy 2010
 

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