by Rachel Blackmon

Dessin du four crématoire by Jules-Adolphe Chauvet. Public Domain via Wikimedia.


1400 – 1800 degrees, so it says
I watched a video to imagine you burning
Because for four years and four months, I can’t make sense of your absence
Even though I held your hands and touched your head
In your last moments on Earth,
Even then, even then
Still I can’t understand that you’re gone
I live as a ghost, not knowing the weight of my own existence
I give away love,
My life is like a piece of paper
Blowing in the wind

I watched the workers pack up a body
In a cardboard box, and tape it as though it were going to be sent somewhere
Imagine, they make boxes for such things
The burning of a person until they are nothing but ash
The orange of the fire lit up brighter when the box was put in
And the door closed
Meanwhile, I wept, my face in the sheets of my bed
Making sounds like an animal slowly bleeding
The neighbors may have heard, or they may not have
I really don’t care.
My father is dead – what else matters?
They prodded the burning embers with a metal rod,
The remnants of a skull disintegrating into dust,
The housing of a magnificent mind like yours in the end becomes nothing

Later, after however long – it seemed to be the next morning,
Because there was daylight again
(Do they only burn bodies after dark?)
They opened the doors and pulled out the residue
There were chunks of ash in the shape of bone
Wearing a mask as to not inhale the particles of human being,
They scraped the cinders into a can, put on the lid, and pressed a button
Some sort of blending and grinding machine
To make the larger fragments become nothing but powder
So no trace of the person remained
Tidying death into neat, nondescript bits
Of grayness that can easily blend into dirt, or into snow.



Rachel Blackmon is a writer and artist living in New York City. After college, Rachel studied fiction writing at NYU’s MFA in creative writing program under the guidance of E.L. Doctorow, Paule Marshall, Brian Morton, and Chuck Wachtel. Rachel has also been engaged in every possible creative hobby under the sun since childhood: sewing and fashion design, cooking, jewelry making, drawing and painting, and writing music.  She has an additional website dedicated to teaching others her creative passions at


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