My father
would’ve laughed his ass off
at how overly concerned I am
about treating his ashes
like a delicate antique;
he’d say he didn’t care
‘cause he was dead.

My sister
hands me the box
without a thought.
We’re packing the SUV
to go to Granny’s farm
to scatter his ashes
and she just puts
the box in my hand—
not on a table
where I could think about it
or get ready,
she just puts it in my hand.

And I think,
“I’m not ready to hold it!”
And then I think,
“IT! What the fuck?!
This was my father,
He was a he, not an it.
He is a he, not was.
He’s just dead.
He still IS my father!
And now I’m holding him
in my hands. He was
a hundred and sixty pound man
and this box in my hands
can’t weigh three pounds.
I mean, these ashes are so light,
they are so light,
I mean he is so light.
This isn’t possible.
Did they forget to put
the rest of him, I mean,
them, the ashes,
into the box?”

My sister
rolls her eyes,
“If you can’t handle it,
just put him
in the back of the truck.”
She walks
back in the house
pleased, chuckling,
just like Daddy would’ve.
I’m pretty sure
in her head,
she hears him
laughing his ass off
at everything,
I mean…
at me.

I wasn’t there to see it
but I expect his spirit darted out
like a rehabilitated animal
released back into the wild,
a deer springing from a cage,
still running from the headlights
that failed to see him in time.

They swept his ashes
into a ziplock and crammed
him into a black plastic box,
perhaps humble like Christ
but inglorious as anything.
They latched the lid shut,
nothing—like sealing a tomb.

He rode quietly under
the seat with the luggage
back to his mama’s farm.

My mother and sister
stood over me
kneeling on the bridge
as I poured him out
in a steady stream.
He fell straight down
‘til the breeze underneath
puffed him into a cloud,
carried him downstream
and set him
on the water
in the riffle
“right where
the good trout are”.

Driving home
I hear his voice,
not the sick one,
but the one from
before the radiation.
He’s telling me
things I need to do
like nothing happened.
It seems odd that death
has healed his voice yet his
memory is still out of whack,
no mention of our arguments
nor the distance we had
cemented between us,
no agreement
to disagree,
no more
I hear
him laughing
outside his box
when a spotted fawn
leaps out in front of us
barely missing the bumper;
my startle wakes my mother
and sister, both
them home.

And I remember
breaking free…

They tried to wrap me in plastic too,
to suffocate my spirit,
burn me to ash,
tried to cram me into a box
that couldn’t hold me.

I think about
playing Smear-the-Queer, kids
running around with a football,
laughing as we call each other names,
and the rusty pitchfork
I jam into my leg
trying to get away
from the innocent boys
who didn’t comprehend why
they wanted to knock me down.

And there’s the boyfriend
I kiss in the driveway
under the neighbor’s scurrilous eye,
crushing my father’s
hump of tolerance
that had sustained us
through the desert
of our relationship.

I remember
dipping Skoal because
my hot grad school friend does
and he is who I want to be.
Masculine and straight-ish,
he announces on our way to class
in the stairwell with the mind-fucking acoustics
“I love you!” but he won’t repeat it
when through my tobacco-drool
I respond, “What? What did you say?”
His tongue penetrates my dreams for years.

I think of my first real love
who shows me the peace that lives
between conflict and drama,
as simple to find
as pressing a cheek
against the bare skin
of his chest.
I stay there
for good reason
for a very long time…

I hope when I’m
completely finished,
they cast my body whole
into the engine of a jetliner
heading somewhere tropical,
letting my fresh ashes
from contrails,
strewing me across
the ocean like the
faerie dust
I was always
to be.