Bodies, Flowerbeds: A Villanelle | Viola Allo

The earth, carved up, engraved with bodies,

this hollow vision of death: people resting

together, bodies beneath a bed of flowers.

 

We soften death into poems and stories.

The art of writing is just a way of wailing

for the earth, carved up, sculpted by bodies.

 

In Cameroon, hair from the dead is carried,

mixed with camwood and kept; the living

remember bodies beneath beds of flowers.

 

What we seek through our endless studies

sits beyond death, but the path to it is sinking

into a carved-up earth, paved with bodies.

 

The sharp shovel of silence briefly remedies

the ear deaf to the voices of the dead, linking

it to slender-petaled tongues in a flowerbed.

 

A poem or a story is an etching of memories,

dignity in the fragile face of loss. Soothing

the earth, carved up, engraved with bodies,

we hum together beside a bed of flowers.

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