Stern Stuff

The ashes, done up in stiff white paper
with hospital folds sealed over at each end,
lie dizzily beside the hole we’ve dug.
Tan talcum silt, powdered by two years’ drought,
sifts out of a shovel. We watch the canister
tumble into the hole and lie alone.
Those ashes, while they held their lively form,
glowed flowery with every kind of laughter
and drove an ingenuity of will
to keep her vivid in a fading world.
Is this how butterflies choke, in cataracts
of dust? What stern stuff it is, crumpling
the weightlessness of brittle, lace-veined wings
and chafing the light from smoky diamond eyes.