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.