How many of us, alone at a grave or coming upon the site of some remembered event, find ourselves speaking to a friend or loved one who has died? In this poem by Karin Gottshall the speaker addresses someone’s ashes as she casts them from a bridge. I like the way the ashes take on new life as they merge with the wind.
The AshesYou were carried here by hands and now the wind has you, gritty as incense, dark sparkles borne in the shape of blowing, this great atmospheric bloom, spinning under the bridge and expanding— shape of wind and its pattern of shattering. Having sloughed off the urn’s temporary shape, there is another of you now— tell me which to speak to: the one you were, or are, the one who waited in the ashes for this scattering, or the one now added to the already haunted woods, the woods that sigh and shift their leaves— where your mystery billows, then breathes.
Karin Gottshall works at the Middlebury College library in Vermont. This poem first appeared in Tar River Poetry, Vol. 44, No. 1, Fall, 2004. Reprinted by permission of the author. Poem © 2004 by Karin Gottshall. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
About the Author
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including Flying at Night (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon, 2004), and Sure Signs (1980). His nonfiction books include The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press, 2002).
Kooser is the U. S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.