‘Absences’ in Unbroken Journal

cemetery

The ossuary, a white-washed, rectangular building, is dark and cool. A musty smell envelops me as I enter. I am searching for the metal box containing my mother’s bones.

I’ve been told she is confined to one on the shelves that run the length of the room. I start searching methodically. Each box has a small hand-written label with the deceased’s name on its front. Several labels are blank. One has a dried daisy flower stuck on it with Sellotape; another, a star in cross stitch; yet another, a tiny motorcycle sticker. Photographs of the dead looking youthful are taped to several boxes, or placed next to them, complicating identification of the containers’ occupants.

Disheartened, I leave the grim building to walk in the dappled shade of the graveyard. The hum of the city mixes with birdsong. So many years since I was in Athens. I stop to read the names of the deceased on headstones, marvel at the stone angels, at the oil lamps. Soon my head is swimming. A woman burning sweet-smelling incense over a grave turns to look at me. I quickly look away, but then, returning her gaze, I nod and she smiles.

noon heat
a hairline crack
in the angel’s wing

In Unbroken Journal, issue 20, 2019

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