Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Baptism of Dust

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Baptism of Dust

Article excerpt

We did all we should have done,

bathed her, held her, sack of bones

gently to slip on the too generous

fabric of her before life, and we

painted flesh and hints of life

into her face so that those who

looked would not collapse from

sorrow, not so much for their loss

but for the pity of it, for the

cleansing terror of imagined suffering-

and as she had wanted, we

put him to the flames as they

had done to the house in the ghetto

shelter when she was taken to die

in the hospital. Let it be burnt

away, he said to her, all this

wounding on my skin, and may

this dust be pure as the purification

that comes of heat. We, a party

of apostates, saints, and reluctant

warriors, climbed the crooked path

to the cliff that looked over

the Caribbean Sea, our heads

pointing to South America

and the fantasy of flight, this

place, this light and the murmur

of the sea, this, too, he asked

us to promise to do. …

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