Where did you go after family and friends
left the crematorium, after your ashes
were poured into an urn
a few sizes smaller than your head?
You who once argued that we would all arrive
in heaven after the end, in the belief
that everyone is innocent, ultimately,
and hence forgivable.
Was there a possible moment of fear in the final
hour of your life, a tiny voice informing you
you might be wrong, before sleep finally
piloted you away on that one-way flight;
the same fear in the seat next to yours,
caressing your phantom arm?
Or did you simply stop where you had
begun, in dust, your body
that may have never been designed
as a metaphor for the soul?
Are you perhaps trailing your wife
like her second shadow
as she returns to the old-folks’ home, grateful
for not having to smell anymore the stink
of medicine and antiseptic crawling off the walls?
Would you cling to her like another blanket
when she falls asleep every night, waiting patiently
for the moment when the nurse checks her pulse
one morning, then announces the inevitable?
What then when I finally join you in the realm
of the invisible? Would the both of us visit
the university where we first met, the soundless shuffle
of our invisible feet down a corridor packed
with roomfuls of memories, waking the janitor’s dog,
which would likely be accustomed by now to
spirits drifting nostalgically in and out of classrooms?
Or would you turn into a guardian angel –
what you had wished for as a child – given wings,
a trumpet, and a list full of duties in a shining scroll?
You could never be a devil, considering how
easily you would lose at arguments, as if lacking
a mind of your own. (Or did you always give
in because it was one of the ways you
knew to love me?)
Today, I saw a car barely miss a child who had
sprung free from a parent’s hand to cross a busy street,
and wondered if it was not you
beside the driver as his tires screamed to a halt,
holding on to his fist in a death-grip around the wheel,
beaming at another job well done.
By Cyril Wong
QLRS Vol. 1 No. 4 Jul 2002