Ashes

sunrise_frost

I found a grave beside the river.

The dog worried at a fork in the trail and turned to question, a branching we usually avoid that leads to a rise undercut by the current, a path obscured by a fallen tree. Mercy jumped the log. I followed her up the trail to the outcropping over the water.

Two branches lashed together forming a rough cross were staked in the ground, a family photograph attached below wilting wildflowers and weeds. Man, woman, boy, girl, posed in some department store studio trying to smile. I called the dog in. Two plastic boxes rested on the narrow end of the tree jutting over the river, lids ajar, white labels on each box “Organ Donor.” There was more, but I didn’t read it. I took hold of Mercy’s collar. Down below us on the river rock under shallow water, white silt sunk and unstirring, ash and bone.

We walked back along the road. My hat felt too tight. Mercy fell in step beside me instead of straining at the leash. I watched her as we walked away. For a quarter mile, more, we saw no one. Fog licked at our heels.

Lines we recite to ourselves walking and waking, stepping between borderlands, the bardo, hoping to find the necessary incantation.

“Ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man.” 

Beloved Mercutio, you are the true tragedy come from those stupid star-crossed lovers.

The notes from the violin are always leaving.”

I didn’t write that line, Phil did. He said it was after a Rilke poem, so long ago I don’t remember which, how nothing evaporates, only expands into eternity.

After my wisdom teeth were removed, Phil and Tom came over with quarts of malt liquor hoping I’d share my painkillers. I didn’t want any Colt 45, but gave them each some codeine. When the beer was gone, Phil heated a stove burner to high. He rubbed two butter knives over the stove coil until they were glowing red and then pressed chunks of hash between the blades to raise plumes of blue smoke.

In the morning, after I’d thrown out the poets and gone to bed, I found the blackened knives crossed on the counter in a scattering of ashes.

Author: Kim K. McCrea

Kim K. McCrea worked as a System Analyst for 25 years building out the internet of things before returning to letters in 2017. Kim won Oregon Writers Colony 2018 essay competition, Treefort Wild West Writing Prize, and was awarded runner-up in Cutbank short prose contest; her work was short-listed for Proximity Magazine's Essay Prize and the Barry Lopez Creative Nonfiction Contest. Prose appears in Cutbank, Tishman Review, Thoughtfuldog, and Watershed Review. Kim lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she wrangles her Labrador in the rain. Unless otherwise credited, all photographs and images on this site are the original work of the author who retains all rights to their use .

10 thoughts on “Ashes”

  1. Yeah, those poets and their hot knives. As my Cajun cellist friend once said, “puff a couteau.” I get that hat-too-tight vibe from the moment, stumbling upon something deeply private and a bit unnerving.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah. You deliver the goods Kim! Thanks for this one. It’s Miller Time up here in our parts. Here’s to that thickening fog and cold front.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I guess, upon reflection, with the poets and imbibing thing, it must just be this burden we have to feel so much that makes it feel less of a burden drinking, you know: “feel less.” Right?! Ha! I jest. Sort of.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh gosh love a good hash finish. Memories lol though I myself couldn’t handle the stuff.
    Happy to see another post from you, and as good as always too. “Fog licked at our heels” -lovely image, puts me right into the scene

    Liked by 1 person

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