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“Diamonds [can be] made from carbon captured during the cremation process…”
Chicago Tribune August 20, 2002.
You say it can be done. You tell me
anyone can sparkle
for a price. Ashes refined
then crushed in the final hug that makes you a star; a diamond to be worn
in navel, tongue, or nipple. You,
who threw yourself down—In abandon?
For love?—refuse to lie
in the ground. You want to burn again
but not to be cast on beaches where you chased flawless
men; and found yourself—caught.
Now those left behind
will shine, a mute night studded with constellations of loss.
It is now three months since my brother, Tom, died of AIDS, aged 42. Mark Doty says, “an absence the size of you” about the death of his partner, Wally.1 I find his phrase unforgettable because of its precise description of the perfect fit between the person lost and the hole left in the survivor’s life and self. It speaks to the absolute and brutal uniqueness of each loss of some person.
“Flawless” came out of a conversation we had on the phone a year or so before he died about what he would want us to do with his body. Tom drew my attention to a Chicago Tribune article about making diamonds out of cremation ashes. With that discussion, and his colourful and dramatic personality in mind, I imagined the conversation that opens the poem. I tried to capture in a brief space something about the way he lived his life as well as my understanding of the “flaws” that drove him to some of the lethal promiscuous sexual behaviour of his younger years. Tom loved the poem, and asked that I read it at his funeral, which I did.
Opening the word hoard is edited by Gillie Bolton. Items should be sent to her at the address at the end of her editorial.