“A walk through Holy Cross” By Frank Wagner

The imagery of this poem by Frank Wagner is grim but it ends on an uplifting note. It also echoes an emerging movement in burial practice: Natural Organic Reduction, also known as human composting. It’s an option in six states and there’s a bill pending in the state legislature to allow it in the Commonwealth.

A walk through Holy Cross

By Frank Wagner

Heavy wet air holds the fog

close to the hardened dirt

that covers the long discarded bones.

An odor of decaying flowers left

by the lonely and the saddened,

mixes with that light greyish air,

so heavy that each step is slow and

each breath is quick and shallow.

Some wander among the stones,

and look at the pictures attached to them.

They know full well that those bones

smell with the rot of death, and would

crumble with the softest touch.

The frilled pink dress or tailored suit,

that encased their lifeless mass,

was eaten away decades ago,

nothing left of their skin

nor the organs they enclosed.

Those beings have had no hope

of returning to walk this earth, and

their minds contain no thought,

they just stay, losing the elements,

until there is no trace of life nor being.

Walkers quicken their steps in fear

after the darkness comes.

They sense even while knowing better,

that these fouls masses shall walk again,

among us all.

But that is not the source of their fear.

In their living and active minds they know,

that every effort and stride will end,

and their conscious being will

have no more presence soon.

When a living being walks

among the dead,

they must not hesitate or pause

for even a short moment,

while their eyes still see,

lungs to breathe,

tongues to taste,

a mind to think while awake

and to dream when asleep.

Know you are one soul

among the billions,

on the edge of a galaxy,

at the end of the universe.

Taking this to mind,

feeling it in your nerves,

will renew the strength

in the living,

and fill the soul

with a precious wonder.

Take the step now

beyond those black iron gates,

to walk in life.