Between the tombstones we see shoulders react to
firecrackers blasting, before we hear them
ourselves in the subs of our ribs.
Smoke opens like spring;
some watch its crowns drift skyward,
others are suddenly nude and bow.
We press down rings and rectangles of grass,
footprints of the tins we use to send joss,
paper clothes, heaven and hell bank notes—
with denominations in ten-thousand—by fire.
The aunts: “It’s hard to get change there!” “Well,
they’ll use it for a house.” “Or a new car.”
“Most important, a laundry machine!”
Laughter—footprint of the folly that survives us,
by which we survive, suffocating on ash
blown upward like small lost birds. Below us,
they suffocate too, less alone a little longer.
Later, we get tickets from a raffle roll
and queue for lunch. No one checks our tickets.
Heaven must be like this: free, but
please present your free pass first.
Hell, too. We stand at the end of the line.
The shoulders nearby smell familiar,
In the urban distance we can hear
a vacuum drone breathlessly;
it never ends.
What’s it matter, we all die anyway.
But that is a nostrum.