Poetry by Karen Sylvia Rockwell

liquidation of the ashettes    

by Karen Sylvia Rockwell


I    you were incinerated    as per your request

    you were divided

the largest portion of you    was placed into a     shiny silver urn    you would have loved for its reflective qualities    you could catch yourself in it each time you walked by    though it might distort you unfavourably if you got too close    or if you stood back too far    when I saw it    I could see you trying to find    just the right angle    you would have hated it for its magnetic attraction to fingerprints    and you would have told us

all    not to touch it    you would have spent     a lot of time    trying to get the shine    just right


II    you were incinerated    as per your request

    you were divided

seven tiny portions of you    were placed into seven jewelled pewter butterflies    one for each of your seven children    (you always bragged you had seven)    your youngest daughter found them    and you would have loved them because     you loved butterflies    and birds    and winged creatures    (though you freaked out at flies)    you were always trying to fly away    to Vegas    to Alaska    to your homeland of Scotland to visit your family    (but these were always short trips)       to far off destination cruises    flying      sailing   away    with us    sometimes    from us too


III    you were incinerated    as per your request

    you were divided

my brother took a portion of you from your     shiny silver urn    (Im sure he left fingerprints)    he put that portion of you into one of the many     scarves you had collected    to accessorized your stoma    he gathered a motley sampling of     your children and grandchildren    and took you on a cruise    to the Bahamas    he ceremoniously threw you out to sea    among the seven hundred islands    (because this was    really    your only other request beyond incineration    why not Scotland?    I wondered)    while those of us who could not attend    wrote a long poem about the event    over Skype    for hours    over several days  we knew you would have loved that    as you always wanted us to talk to each other    though you loved being the hub    and us the spokes


IV    you were incinerated    as per your request

    you were divided

the remainder of the silver-urned portion of you    was placed into a marble bench    in the garden of a cemetery    an eighty thousand dollar bench    with a magnificent bronzed angel     you would have loved the angel    because it had a beautiful face  and you loved beautiful faces    and you loved angels    the eighty thousand dollar bench    (the price tag would have burned your arse    if it wasnt already   because you loved bargains    and you could be sure    no one even asked    for a better price)    the eighty thousand dollar bench    (you would have said it at least three times)    was inscribed    a compositionby your youngest daughter    you would have been touched    but you also might have let out a sarcastic laugh    because you always teased her    about not making use of    her expensive education


V    you were incinerated    as per your request

    you were divided

and on Skype     we argued about    who got what portion of you in their pewter butterfly    some coveted your eyes    steely blue    while others feared them    preferring your hand    the one that    fed the birds    the one that    wrote the poiems (thats what you always called them)    even the one that    at some point    likely    slapped us a shot    or one of your thumbs    either one    because you used them both    didnt you?    up against your throat    to cover the hole    the stoma    to talk    to scream at us all    because you still could    and we loved you for it    we laughed about how horrified you probably were about    the carry-on of it all    we heard you saying    for Christs sake    canny anyone dey anything right?    dey I have to dey it all myself?    and you would have said it just like that    because    even without your voice box    you still had your Scottish accent    and you were    seriously    glad of that    and on Skype we wrote a very long poiem    about the carry on    which went on way too long    and    every word contained ation    why in tar nation did you have a cremation    followed by a buckin visitation?    you would have chimed in with ation words    because you loved that    but then you would have gotten annoyed     and we would have laughed even harder about that     and kept on writing    and reading the poiem to you    till you threatened us    and even then


VI    you were incinerated    as per your request

    you were divided

fragmented    separated    as you were    all your life    from your father    when age    finally    allowed domestic abuse reporting    from your family    when you married a military man    and moved across the ocean    and around the world    from your children    when you had a breakdown    followed by a divorce    and your husband got custody of us    your first five    from each one of us a second time    as we found you again    then left to lead our own lives    from yourself    as your grief    assisted by alcohol    kept you    just out of reach   as your grief    assisted by alcohol    cigarettes    broke your body down    till they took it apart    part by part    you called it    legal    live    dissection    but you kept it together    didnt you?    gall bladder/tummy tuck    lumpectomy/breast reduction    economizing every situation    always laughing    brushing it off    passing the breathing test    with flying colours   flying off to Europe    to compete in ball room dance competitions    who needs two lungs?


VII    you were incinerated    as per your request

    you were divided

and in this    we    your grieving children    are reunited


Since her Ma passed away in 2008, Karen Sylvia Rockwell has become fierce about writing, diving into workshops and readings. She is celebrating the recognition her work is receiving. Karen’s work appears in Room; The Saving Bannister; Deep Water Literary Journal; offSIDE; Napalm and Novocain; Vanessa Shields’s Poetry On Demand, vol.2, and is featured in anthologies by Cranberry Tree Press; The Ontario Poetry Society; Polar Expressions Publishing; Ascent Aspiration; Kind of a Hurricane Press and Womanspirit. Karen lives in Belle River, Ontario with her partner Sandy, and their dog Kasey Marlowe. Karen attributes much of her inspiration to her work as a counsellor and to her colourful, many facetted, extended blended family.

liquidation of the ashettes won first place in Room Magazine’s 2013 Poetry Contest and was published in Room 37.2.