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Contents Page: Oct 1, 2011, vol 7 no 3

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Sonam Chhoki

Last Journey

Morning of my father's cremation. Early monsoon clouds obscure the mountains, abode of our family gods.

cataract eye sun opens morning glory flowers

Anointed in sandalwood oil and bound foetal in rainbow hues of silks, we bear him along the serpentine road to the banks of the Amo Chu.

pointing to the rising sun a charred pine branch

He is placed in a cage of firewood and white silken banners. The chief monk beats his hand-held drum, sprinkles saffron water and lights the pyre. Wisps of flame rise, then catch the butter-soaked wood. Offerings of money, fruits, ritual cakes and juniper twigs crackle and burn.

lighting butter lamps, butter lamps light up tears

My father's skull crumbles into the burning pit. The pyre fizzles and pops. Smell of burning flesh, fat and sandalwood rises into the air.

Monks chant from the Book of the Dead urging my father beyond this crucible through the bardo to a new rebirth.

on a piece of torn prayer flag
a stray puppy


Kikakuza 2011 Winning Haibun, published in Icebox.

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