We ride horses across the plains,
the air bittersweet with sage and sunflowers.
I tie my bay to a ponderosa,
as my brother, sister-in-law, and niece secure their horses.
We hike to a cliff overlooking Coyote Creek,
a pooling oasis that trickles down from the Turkey Mountains.
My brother hands me the box, pale blue with a white dove on the side.
Inside I find a plastic bag, which I remove and hold in my palm.
Suddenly all the ways I held my mother flash before me.
I held her arthritic hand, the bones sharp against my skin.
I hugged her, pressed my fingers into the tender spot between her shoulder blades.
I supported her as she walked with tortured knees, her weight on my shoulder.
I lifted her off her bedroom floor after she fell, her arms like liquid.
But I never held her as dust.
The realization that this smoky matter is her body ricochets through my chest.
This is my mother, my mind beseeches.
But no, the Beloved answers.
She soars in formless grace,
while this is but another piñon shell
scattered across the forest floor.
I step to the cliff edge and sprinkle the ashes.
They take flight, swirling in the wind,
becoming one with her favorite place.
My brother and sister-in-law release the rest
and then, teary-eyed, we hug.
I sense how we are all perched between this now and eternity,
between these mortal bodies and our everlasting selves.
And that is our truest task,
to know how much we dance and play and love beyond this cliff edge.
We ride back, the sun warming our cheeks
and glinting off the gramma grass.
Then we feast, and laugh, and become so tired
we have no choice but to lie down in the Beloved’s arms
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