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The John Robert Doyle, Jr., Prize

Celeste McMaster

An Elegy for Sadness: List

An Elegy for Sadness

The day I buried the ashes, I put them in
the old tin where I used to keep hair pins,
Then I dug a hole deep enough to hold
steel, lost children, a marriage.

It took me all day. Of course they were too
big for such a small container. I knew
that going in. It was just ashes,
but even then there was too much.

I chose a select few: those that after
years and years of fire refused to burn.
I placed them in Mother’s old sifter,
the one she used when baking for mourners.

I sifted them fine as cake flour. Clumps
remaining in the wires I tap tap tapped
into the box. Then I descended down
the mouth of the ground I’d opened to hide it

at the bottom. Climbing up, I knew
it would take the rest of the day to fill the hole.
But they refused to be compressed.
Particles expanded, baking in the oven of earth.

The tin’s burst was a shot gun going
off. Shards stung my heel. I scrambled up,
out of the mounting ash, but before I could,
flakes filled the hole, nearly choking

me as I sneezed and coughed. Impossible
to cover up, I went in the house, took a bath.
But the ash rose up through the drain, cool
silt submerging my legs, ascending neck-deep.

An Elegy for Sadness: Text
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