Sky Burial

 

We cut off his fingers 

Joint by joint and then at the wrist as well

 

Then cleaving from sockets and sinews his elbows and shoulders 

His flesh was tight against our blades and our hands were

Greasy with blood and viscera and gristle after hauling up the fresh

Death upon our backs to the peak above the village where

Amid dry weeds mummified by endless winter

The bare steep face of the mountain looks over the valleys

Which surround these empty wastes

 

Fingers greasy with his death and his body and sinews

He whom we knew so much of or at least well enough to mourn

And thangkas drape awnings of lashed bones and stretched skins

Rich with color glowing under the funereal blaze

Every design an imitation of the view

Though does the sun die for him

He our friend in a binding of vines

Dry like his fingers would be three days hence were it not

For our practice which we've undertaken

He of golden skin muscled in memory

Thangkas like national flags of the handfuls of houses in our village

Scattered like the digits and segments which we cast

Strewn about these cliffs which we know so

Well and which know us far further than any of our memories permit

 

The thangkas

 Flags of a nation fivefold and individual they bear

The patterns of the family which made them

They flutter in the wind

As we pass with calloused hands which smell of iron

 

We tattoo ourselves with sharpened bone-picks

Inscribing and instructing those who

Must cut us up as we have done

For our friends those most dear

 

For they will not know 

Those who come after

They will not know the methods so we demarcate the lines and

Joints and diagram the sinews of ourselves and indicate

As best we can over fires and alcohol to

Allow tears and the clarity which follows as we indicate

With ink of macabre origin the places a blade must navigate

 

We are cartographers of the corpses

We must eventually become.