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The World’s Other Side

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In Japan, when you die, they wheel
what’s left of you out of the incinerator,
and what’s left of your family takes turns
picking with special chopsticks.
It looks like they have gathered to dine
over a dead campfire, but they are not,
of course, eating you. They are feeding you
to the round mouth of an urn:
only in pieces, Father, to the fire.
In their bright swimsuits,
my daughters spill warm sand over my skin
as I lie still, watching the sun
needle the sky. The baby licks her fingers
to tell, perhaps, if I am ready, her bald head
white with lotion, her mouth full
of vowels. The older one says nothing
above the ocean’s slow rush,
but scoops and pats to get me done
and gone. I’ve never been to Japan,
but once, a globe of glass
found me at the clear end of a wave.
It drifted from the other side, my mother said.
Cold and slick, it glistened as I held it up
with both hands and looked through
to the green flames of the sun
before tasting the salt with my tongue.

Source: Poetry (November 2010)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

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The World’s Other Side

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