Five Points, Vol. 10 No. 1&2

Fall - Spring 2006

From Mary Lee Settle, “I demand irony from my reader. You know more than the people in the books know.”

Sample Content

Sharon Olds
My Parents' Ashes, October, 2001

Maybe they have touched, by now.
Maybe a grain of my mother’s bone,
cast in the Pacific a month ago,
has glanced along a grain of my father’s,
loose in the Bay for twenty years.
Maybe a molecule of her
has lain beside a molecule
of him, or interpenetrated
it, an element of her matter
bonding to an element of his,
sodium on potassium,
calcium on magnesium,
Ossa on Pelion, maybe they
have even shared an atom together,
Na, Ca, Mg, or Fe with its
2 electrons in the K-shell,
8 in the L-shell, 14 in the M,
2 in the N, as if they could circle one
nucleus, like parents a crib,
share an atomic weight, their cold
embers conjoining alkalai metals
with earth metals on the periodic
tidal table, as the currents carry them
back and forth under the Golden Gate.
Ashes are the solid residue left
when matter is burned at not too high
a temperature. A molecule
is the smallest particle into which
a substance can be divided and still have
the properties of the original substance,
my mother’s dust, my father’s dust,
ghost legs of a spider crab
picking its way along the rock sea floor. If the
substance were divided further, only atoms
would remain. They died, old, in my arms,
the gift of their last breath went into
my mouth. They chose for their bodies to be burned
at the heat to preserve their grit, they chose
the ocean, chose not the weather of the day
but the words said as the grey fur
blew from our hands into the cradle of salt—
an easy death, and in its way
an easy life, no one they loved
vaporized, the dream covenants kept.