I stand before the headstone. In one hand I carry a box of matches and in the other a folded piece of paper dense and square. I place it upon the sleek blackness, the paper’s whiteness startling – like a falling star and clench my hands.I have come, bringing the face of Chinese ceremony in a bid to unwind the thread of distance between us. I have come to shape the memory of what you were. But…How do you remember every second of every day that was suddenly taken on a breath, gone before everything was said?I can feel the fire. It is building within me, waiting to see the curling edges of the paper.Each small square cries a blankness, where music once danced, where black notes slid easily into the lie your fingers and heart made of the pain. Your face transformed as you played the piano, while my denial burned, thoughts slipping back into annotated childhood.A smile, a look and we’d laugh – secrets that drove the others mad. I basked in the glory of your irreverence and played heavily on being the only girl in the family. Where danger lurked you stepped, yet underneath, despite the bravado was a sadness, a yearning that even I could not fathom. You grew restless and left, your absence a hole in the blanket of my security. It widened as you roamed.The shape is there, a wisp of smoke bending first one way then another.Each small square tries to imitate the places you’ve been; postcards scattered on fridges, in boxes; lying decadently on coffee tables.I wandered the sands of the golden beaches with you, fell into the ocean more luxuriantly snapped- blue. Drew my own conclusions as you bar- hopped and drank the smiles of many women. It was a pattern printed into your return, but I saw the wistful gleam in your eye as I created my own space, was loved.You stumbled into a commitment that strangled your spirit. Your one consolation – a daughter. She was only eleven when the darkness took you.Body to body ashes to ashesEach small square wants to recapture the sinew and bone that has gone back to basics; like shell grit, hard under foot and not easily ignored as it cuts. I counted the blood- red petals as they fell on polished wood, cascading friendships. It opened a void that tried to swallow me whole; ate too contentedly at the edges of my denial. Only the perception of your teenage daughter granted a reprieve.And the smoke settles into a question. What shape love?
I unclench my hands. The square of paper is still here solid, unmoving; a foundation that has endured as ancestors endure. I open the paper & let the creases ink an indelible map within, strike a match & watch it burn – a conflagration of memory that will never quite be the same, but lives on – in this moment forever.